Tories claim city leaders reneged on referendum question vow

THE Capital’s Tories today accused city leaders of reneging on a promise over the road tolls referendum.

Councillor Iain Whyte, the Tory group leader, claimed today that Edinburgh City Council chief executive Tom Aitchison had agreed to discuss the wording of the referendum’s question with the party and the Lib Dems. But he said city leaders simply released the details publicly.

He added: "The chief executive was keen to have the question agreed by the whole council. There was a meeting, but there was no outcome. My understanding was that he would come back to us. The next thing we know, the Labour Party had released the question to the whole world. The Labour Party are running scared on this and so have resorted to these tactics."

Mr Aitchison was not available for comment, but councillor Andrew Burns, the city’s transport leader, said Tory councillors failed to turn up to a cross-party meeting two weeks ago. He added that Councillors Whyte and Allan Jackson, the Tory’s transport spokesman, attended a group leaders’ meeting last Tuesday where the referendum question was on the agenda.

Councillor Burns said: "Iain Whyte’s comments are factually inaccurate. The constant criticism of the process, the decision and the referendum is a clear indication that the opponents of congestion charging have got nothing to offer as an alternative."

Scotland’s leading political analyst, politics professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, last week accused city leaders of behaving like old-fashioned trade union barons in their bid to introduce road tolls.

He said the wording to be used in referendum papers which are to be sent to homes across the city was "completely biased".

He also criticised plans to circulate a glossy brochure spelling out promised transport improvements with every ballot paper.

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