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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 20:25 GMT
MSPs vote to scrap bridge tolls
Forth Road Bridge
Scrapping the tolls on the two bridges will cost about 16m a year
MSPs have backed a bill to remove tolls on the Forth Road Bridge and the Tay Bridge.

The SNP promised to abolish the last remaining bridge tolls in Scotland as part of its election campaign.

It will cost about 16m a year to scrap the 1 toll on the Forth Road Bridge and the 80p toll on the Tay Bridge.

There was an overwhelming vote in favour at Holyrood. The toll gates will be taken away early in the new year, probably in February.

MSPs voted by 122 to three in favour of the abolition of the tolls.

'Ends injustice'

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said: "This first bill for this new Scottish Government ends an injustice to the people of Scotland.

"This is a great day for the people of Fife, Tayside and the Lothians.

"By 14 February, no-one will be paying tolls over the Forth and Tay. I am sure people across Scotland will be delighted."

However, Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was disappointed at the decision.

This will result in more people, spending more of their lives stuck in traffic jams and probably wishing they could pay a pound to get out of them
Patrick Harvie
Green MSP

Chief executive Duncan McLaren said: "The removal of tolls will not deliver economic or social benefits, but will increase congestion, local air pollution and climate change emissions.

"This takes us in the wrong direction as far as the Government's climate change commitments are concerned."

He said the organisation was particularly disappointed that an amendment by the Conservatives was passed, removing powers to introduce demand management measures on bridges.

Holyrood's two Green MSPs had warned that removal of the tolls could lead to a 20% increase in traffic on the Forth Road Bridge and more congestion in Edinburgh.

But the Scottish Government said it was investing in railways, bus services and park-and-ride to cut congestion and reduce carbon emissions.

Stewart Stevenson
The transport minister said it was a "great day"

Labour's transport spokesman Des McNulty said ministers had to address issues such as the increase in congestion caused by axing the tolls.

"We do need now from the government some indication of its proposals for dealing with additional congestion," he said.

He pointed out that Mr Stevenson was also the minister responsible for climate change, telling MSPs: "They can't ignore the emissions consequences of this."

Tory transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said that abolishing the tolls, together with Wednesday's announcement of a new bridge across the Forth meant this was "a good week for the economy of the east of Scotland".

The tolls will go soon after the Queen gives her consent to the first act of the new parliament.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Alison McInnes stressed the importance of bringing in measures to combat congestion and deal with any increase in pollution.

"Our priority is to keep Scotland moving and so I urge the transport minister to deal with the consequences of this bill," she said.

New bridge

But Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who is also convener of Holyrood's transport committee, said: "This will result in more people, spending more of their lives stuck in traffic jams and probably wishing they could pay a pound to get out of them.

"Additional public transport isn't any good. We need to move people from one traffic mode onto another, it's about alternatives not just additions.

"And that change from one mode to another will not happen unless we give people the right incentives as well as the transport alternatives."

The vote on the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill comes a day after the government announced plans for a new bridge to be built across the Firth of Forth.

Finance Secretary John Swinney ruled out the use of tolls on the new crossing, which will be just west of the existing suspension road crossing.

SEE ALSO
How MSPs voted in the parliament
20 Dec 07 |  Scotland
New bridge to be built over Forth
19 Dec 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
MSPs support bridge tolls removal
07 Nov 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
In quotes: Bridge toll abolition
07 Nov 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Concern over bridge staff morale
11 Sep 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Bill aims to scrap bridge tolls
04 Sep 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
MSPs vote to scrap bridge tolls
31 May 07 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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