Greens insist road user charging 'absolutely inevitable' for Scottish motorists

The Scottish Greens have warned Scots will have to be charged to use certain roads to meet climate targets.

A Scottish Greens MSP has warned it is “absolutely inevitable” that Scots will eventually be charged to use roads as a key measure to encourage more people to use public transport.

Mark Ruskell told The Scotsman the strategy was unavoidable as part of Scotland’s climate strategy, but warned it would only be effective if it was backed up with investment and improvements to public transport.

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SNP net zero secretary Mairi McAllan has delayed her updated climate change plan. The blueprint was thrown into more doubt after she was forced to admit that Scotland would not be able to meet its legal target to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, following a damning assessment by independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee.

Road users in Scotland could be charged to use certain routes. Picture: Lisa FergusonRoad users in Scotland could be charged to use certain routes. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Road users in Scotland could be charged to use certain routes. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Ruskell said “you can’t leave sectors like transport and agriculture sit to one side”, highlighting the two key parts of the economy lagging behind on climate process. The Greens MSP pointed the finger directly at former SNP rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing, whom he claimed “absolutely stood in the way of change”.

The Scottish Government has pledged to cut the number of “car kilometres” by 20 per cent by 2030, but is yet to bring forward a blueprint to achieve that ambition. Edinburgh City Council has suggested it is working with the Government on developing a “pay-as-you drive” model for the capital.

Mr Ruskell said there needed to be a discussion about “how we can raise revenue from private car use to invest in the obvious changes that are needed to provide those alternatives to the cars”, insisting “we need to see a decisive shift now”.

He said: “It isn’t about penalising drivers. It’s about giving all drivers a realistic alternative and it is about raising the revenue that can be invested into those alternatives.

Scottish Greens MSP Mark RuskellScottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell
Scottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell

“There are politically sensitive issues in that, but looking around the world, there are no ways around this. Road user charging is needed, but the question is where you actually put the revenue from that – if the revenue actually goes into a public transport system that works, that is fair, that is affordable,

"You cannot be simply charging drivers without actually providing the real upfront investment. The price of motorising is so cheap compared to public transport, so you need to rebalance that and you have to reinvest that.”

Asked if Scots can expect to pay to use certain routes in the future, Mr Ruskell said: “I think that is absolutely inevitable.”

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Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson said: “This comment, which again illustrates the Greens’ ignorance and hostility to motorists, will strike fear into the hearts of those who rely on their cars to get about.

“The SNP-Greens’ priority should be making public transport reliable and affordable, rather than further punishing car users without providing viable alternatives. For many Scots, especially in rural and remote Scotland, a car is a necessity, not a luxury. The dogmatic Greens simply can’t or won’t accept that.

Humza Yousaf must make clear that he will finally stand up to his coalition partners – and rule out the introduction of road charging.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that reaching our target of a 20 per cent reduction in car km by 2030 will require a broad combination of interventions, including infrastructure, incentives and disincentives. We believe these decisions should be locally led, and local authorities have discretionary powers to implement local road user charging if they choose to do so under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001. We will publish a final version of the 20 per cent car km reduction route map in the coming months.”



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