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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 16:02 GMT
MSPs support bridge tolls removal
Forth Bridge tolls. Picture by Allan Milligan

The Scottish Parliament's transport committee has backed the abolition of tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges.

However, MSPs voiced concerns about the impact on the environment and said steps should be taken to reduce the impact of increasing traffic levels.

The committee said scrapping the tolls would cost the Scottish Government about 87m over the next four years.

The majority of the committee backed the move - but convener Patrick Harvie, a Green MSP, voiced his dissent.

In May, MSPs voted in favour of a bill to scrap the two last remaining bridge tolls in Scotland.

We have strongly recommended in our report that measures are put in place in an effort to mitigate the extent of these negative effects
Patrick Harvie
Green MSP

The SNP pledged in its election manifesto that it would remove the 1 fee to use the Forth bridge and the 80p toll to cross the Tay bridge.

The subsequent bill was supported by all the parties, except the Greens.

Mr Harvie continued his party's opposition as the committee published its report.

He said: "The majority of our committee agrees with the Scottish Government's proposals to remove the tolls on the Forth and Tay road bridges, given that Fife is the only part of Scotland which routinely faces this cost.

"However, our committee is concerned that the removal of the bridge tolls on both the Forth and Tay road bridges will result in a negative environmental impact, particularly in terms of increased CO2 emissions.

Tay Road Bridge (Pic by Undiscovered Scotland)
MSPs also voted remove charges on the Tay

"We also accept that increased congestion and longer journey times are expected as a removal of tolls.

"We have therefore strongly recommended in our report that measures are put in place in an effort to mitigate the extent of these negative effects."

Mr Harvie said he was personally unable to support the bill because of the "negative environmental impact".

The committee said the Scottish Government should fund steps to reduce the traffic impact and called for steps to encourage more bus, rail and cycle use.

The report said abolition of tolls would create about 1,000 jobs in Fife but warned that increased congestion could cause problems for businesses.

Sustainable transport

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson welcomed the move saying it was unfair and unacceptable that the two road bridges into and out of Fife were the only remaining toll bridges in Scotland.

He said he hoped the tolls could be removed as soon as possible, subject to due process through parliament.

He added that the Scottish Government would "continue to address" the congestion situation.

"We have always made clear that our approach to sustainable transport and the environment is a package of measures, not one single policy," he said.

"The ambitious Climate Change Bill that we will bring forward to parliament is evidence of this."

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30 May 07 |  Scotland
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