Scots told to scrap bridge tolls to boost economic mobility
New Start magazine
Tolls should be scrapped on all bridges in Scotland to help generate new jobs and business, the country’s independent economic development network has urged.
In response to a Scottish Executive consultation, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) joined a chorus of calls for the abolition of tolls to help promote economic and social inclusion.
Although the executive did not invite opinions on whether the regime should be scrapped, rather than reformed, the unpopularity of tolls and their negative impact on jobs and businesses was clear in the 63 responses to the consultation.
The SCDI network, including businesses, trade unions, local authorities, educational institutions and organisations in the voluntary sector, told the Scottish Executive that ‘the abolition of tolls on all bridges in Scotland would be the most equitable course of action’. The £18.8m for maintenance lost as a result of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, Tay Bridge and Erskine Bridge could be met from within the Scottish Executive’s £25.9bn budget, it said.
Pleas for abolition of tolls on the Erskine bridge were backed by former social justice minister Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton.
In a joint response with fellow MSPs Irish Goodman and Des McNulty, Ms Baillie said: ‘Removal of the toll would help mobility of labour and broaden the opportunities for the relatively high proportion of unemployed people living in West Dunbartonshire.
West Dunbartonshire is recognised as having high levels of deprivation and the cost barrier presented by the tolls on the Erskine Bridge makes an already disadvantaged area less competitive: Individual respondents warned they would consider leaving their jobs if they had to pay more for driving to work alone. Glasgow Council also called for Erskine bridge tolls to be abolished while the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned of ‘growing resentment’ that tolls still existed on the bridge.
The FSB added: ‘At a time when Scotland is aiming for economic growth, it would be counterproductive to penalise [small] businesses.’
A response from the Scottish Executive will be made in due course.