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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February 2005, 13:54 GMT
Edinburgh to decide on road tolls
Edinburgh city centre
Residents have two weeks in which to vote on the plans
Voting has started in the referendum on congestion charging proposals for Scotland's capital.

The plans, which have prompted heated debate, are being put to Edinburgh residents in a postal vote which is running until 21 February.

Backers of a "Yes" vote claim it will mean less traffic, cleaner air and public transport improvements.

"No" campaigners say it will damage the economy and push traffic into residential areas of the city.

About 300,000 residents are being asked if they are in favour of the establishment of inner and outer cordons for the city with a charge of 2 a day and fines of 60 for those who do not pay up.

The cordons will operate from Monday to Friday with an outer one for the morning rush hour and an inner one in operation until 1830 at night.

Click here to see where the cordons would be

On the ballot paper, residents are being asked whether or not they support the council's preferred strategy, including tolls.

Edinburgh City Council said net revenue is forecast to be 761m over 20 years and money will be used to fund transport improvements.

Organisations and individuals for and against the plans have been active in expressing their views.

Congestion sign
Edinburgh could go down the same road as London
Four of Scotland's political parties, the Scottish Tories, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Socialist Party have spoken in favour of a no vote.

Tory leader David McLetchie said the proposed scheme was "nothing more than another tax on motorists".

The SNP's Kenny MacAskill added that the plan was the wrong scheme at the wrong time.

Margaret Smith, of the Liberal Democrats, said Edinburgh needed trams before tolls and the SSP's Colin Fox said better public transport was what was needed.

But the Scottish Green Party said political opposition to congestion charging was a clear example of parties backing down on "green" pledges for the sake of short-term political gain.

Pollution increase

Mark Ballard, Green MSP for Lothians, said many politicians were in the habit of "paying lip service" to environmental issues - pledging their commitment to protect Scotland on the one hand, while destroying natural resources and failing to address climate change on the other.

On Monday, West Lothian Council announced plans to hold its own referendum on the issue.

It said it would send out ballot papers and an information leaflet this week to more than 100,000 residents as part of its bid to challenge aspects of Edinburgh's plans in a court action.

Tina Woolnough, co-ordinator of Edinburgh Communities Against Congestion Charging, has voiced concerns that the charging will only increase traffic and pollution around suburbs and schools.

Tina Woolnough
Tina Woolnough is opposed to the plans

She said: "Drivers are going to be trying to rat-run, so they won't go into the city centre. They'll try and avoid the inner cordon charge, so they'll go round it.

"The morning outer cordon will mean that drivers won't use the city bypass any more so you'll get Edinburgh commuters who hitherto were using the bypass coming through residential streets to get to their destinations."

David Spaven, of Get Edinburgh Moving, said residents must vote for change.

He said: "The scheme isn't perfect and I don't think even the council would claim that it's perfect, but we have to do something and this is an important step forward.

"Doubtless in five, 10, 15 years' time something better will have to be done but we must make a start.

'Resolved the anomaly'

"If we don't make a start now it'll be five or 10 years before any politician is brave enough to put their head above the parapet and say 'we have got to confront this traffic crisis'."

A telephone poll of more than 500 people for the Edinburgh Evening News - which is against the proposals - suggested a majority of people were opposed to the charging plans.

However, Transport Secretary and Edinburgh Central MP Alistair Darling said that remained to be seen and he is offering his support to the plans.

He said: "I intend to support it because I think it's important that Edinburgh faces up to it (congestion) and particularly since the council resolved the anomaly where a large part of the west of the city would have been included in the scheme and they are now exempted from it.

David Spaven
David Spaven said it is time for change

"We'll have to accept the judgement of the people in Edinburgh."

Mr Darling, who is also Scottish Secretary, said the UK Government has declared its interest in road pricing schemes because of congestion problems "not just in Edinburgh but in every other British city".

Fife and Midlothian councils joined West Lothian in the courts to challenge the plans.

The three authorities have asked Lord Brodie for an exemption for residents in outlying parts of the capital as they claim motorists living just as close to the city in neighbouring councils will be hit by the charge.

The referendum result is expected to be available on 22 February and will go before a full council meeting on Thursday, 24 February.

INNER CORDON ENTRY POINTS
1a. Glenogle Road
2. Brandon Terrace
4. Eyre Place
5. Cornwallis Place
6. Mansfield Place
7. East London Street
8. Leith Walk
10a. Regent Terrace
11. Regent Road
12. Calton Road
13. Canongate
14. Holyrood Road
15. St Leonard's Street
16. Clerk Street
17. Hope Park Crescent
18. Melville Drive
21. Home Street
22. Dundee Street
23a. West Approach Road (Dundee Street access)
23b. West Approach Road (Westfield Road access)
24. Dalry Road
25. Roseburn Terrace
26. Belford Road
28a. Randolph Cliff
30. Deanhaugh Street

OUTER CORDON ENTRY POINTS
1. A199 Edinburgh Road
2. A1 Musselburgh By-pass
3. A6095 Newcraighall Road
4. Whitehill Road
5. A6106 The Wisp
6. A7 Old Dalkeith Road
7. A772 Drum Street
8. Lasswade Road
9a. A701 Burdiehouse Road
9b. Southhouse Broadway
10. A702 Biggar Road
11. Dreghorn Link
12. A70 Lanark Road
13. Baberton Junction
14. A71 Calder Road
14a. Edinburgh Park South Access
15. South Gyle Broadway
16. A8 Glasgow Road
17. A90n Queensferry Road

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SEE ALSO
Toll supporters' last-minute push
05 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Court considers congestion charge
03 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Congestion review given go-ahead
25 Jan 05 |  Scotland

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