Bridge tolls 'scrapped by the end of the year'

TOLLS on the Forth and Tay road bridges are expected to be scrapped by the end of the year, after MSPs agreed to the move yesterday.

Stewart Stevenson, the transport minister, said legislation would be introduced in September, after the SNP headed off a threatened ambush from opposition parties, who were attempting to save Edinburgh's trams and airport rail link.

Mr Stevenson described abolishing bridge tolls as "the elimination of 40 years of injustice" since the Forth and Tay crossings were built.

The move will mean taxpayers having to fund up to 16 million a year in lost toll income, and the 13 million remaining debt on the Tay Road Bridge. The Forth Estuary Transport Authority and the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board are expected to remain as road and bridge maintenance bodies.

The SNP staved off its first Holyrood defeat since taking power by agreeing to a Labour amendment that the trams and airport rail schemes should not be "arbitrarily delayed or cancelled".

MSPs voted by 120-0 to scrap tolls, with the two Green MSPs abstaining.

John Swinney, the finance secretary, said: "Our expectation is that the legislation will be able to be passed by parliament, subject to the consent of parliament, before the turn of the year."