The prospect of congestion charges for motorists entering Scotland’s town and cities has been raised by a new initiative aimed at making high streets more pedestrian friendly.
Congestion charging was rejected by Edinburgh residents a decade ago and the latest move has been branded “stupid and absurd” by critics.
Council chiefs across the country will be asked to consider the charges as part of a wider blueprint to regenerate shopping streets in town centres.
Ministers want to see all local authorities draw up their own plans, with the prospect of more pedestrianised areas and a further roll-out of 20mph zones.
But the move has come under fire from Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone.
“Previous attempts to introduce congestion charges in Scotland proved a complete disaster,” he said.
“For the SNP to even suggest to councils they look into the possibility is the first step on the ladder of rank hypocrisy. If they really believe congestion charges are a good idea, they should be out there right now campaigning and making their case.
“It is an absurd idea and should be kicked into the longest grass possible.”
In 2005 residents in Edinburgh overwhelmingly rejected proposals which would have seen drivers charged £2 every time they entered the restricted central zone.
Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Drivers also voiced concerns over the latest initiative.
“It’s a stupid idea and all they’re trying to do is force people to use public transport,” he said.
“It is an absurd anti-motoring stance some people are taking and it is time they got to grips with themselves and acknowledge that people have cars and want to use them.”
A draft consultants’ report commissioned by the Scottish Government recommends a masterplanning toolkit containing measures such as congestion charging, bus lanes, 20mph zones and further pedestrianisation.
Professor Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation added: “Drivers will baulk at the idea of paying yet more money to get about but the hard truth is that traffic and traffic jams are forecast to increase.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it has commissioned a team of experts to research and develop material as part of an action plan.
She added: “The Scottish Government will not be prescriptive on what measures should be taken to meet local needs but will help to create the right conditions to facilitate action for town centre regeneration.”