Scottish independence: Scots face UK road levy

At present drivers face equal costs north or south of Border. Picture: TSPL
At present drivers face equal costs north or south of Border. Picture: TSPL
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SCOTTISH hauliers will be hit by a £1,000 a year levy to use the rest of the UK’s road network and ordinary drivers left facing extra costs should voters back independence, the coalition government has claimed.

The warning in the latest paper on the consequences of independence produced by the UK government says that motorists generally could end up paying a higher cost through extra bureaucracy and charges.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills paper, due to be published tomorrow, sets out the consequences for road users, such as the administration of 3.7 million Scottish driving licences as well as MOTs. The report points out that Scottish HGVs using UK roads could face extra charges after independence, because the implementation of the HGV Road User Levy Act 2013.

This legislation introduces a charge of £10 a day or £1,000 a year to all HGVs weighing 12 tonnes or more using the UK road network from April 2014, and is designed to make HGV operators make a contribution to the wear and tear they cause to UK roads.

The paper also points out that non-commercial vehicles registered in a separate Scottish state and brought into the UK for more than six months would be liable for UK registration fees currently £55 for non-UK vehicles and the relevant UK Vehicle Excise Duty on top of whatever similar charges applied in Scotland.

It says there would be a need to set standard and safety provisions for vehicles and drivers which are currently set and monitored by UK agencies.

Scotland would also have to create new agencies with specialist skills – such as Air Accident Investigation teams, with the paper claiming this would be “disproportionately expensive” for a separate Scottish state given the smaller area to be covered.

Tory Scotland Office minister David Mundell said: “Every time we look under the bonnet of independence we find something else problematic. Scottish motorists just want to be able to drive on UK roads with the minimum of fuss. They don’t want new charges, new driving licences or new MOTs.

“The UK brings benefits to all parts of the UK. Independence would bring massive change to every aspect of Scottish life and it would not be a change for the better. Scotland, in the UK, is open for business.”

But pro-independence supporters described the document as “more scaremongering”.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland, the umbrella group leading the independence campaign, said: “The No campaign describe themselves as ‘Project Fear’ and this latest scare story fits into that category.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “With independence, Scotland will gain full control of vehicle excise duty and fuel taxes. This will mean that an independent Scottish Government can set these measures in line with the needs of Scotland’s hauliers and motorists.

“The HGV road user scheme... being introduced by the UK government will already be in place ahead of independence. Scotland would therefore take on a share of revenues from the scheme and would have exactly the same powers as the UK government to put in place offsetting measures for Scottish hauliers.

“Scotland has a long-standing stake in UK institutions, such as the DVLA, DSA and VOSA, and these services are mostly paid for by fees paid by motorists. This means an independent Scotland would have a range of options for providing these services in an independent Scotland.”

SNP claims MoD suppressing information relevant to debate

THE SNP has produced a dossier which it claims shows that the Ministry of Defence is deliberately suppressing information it holds to prevent an informed debate ahead of next year’s independence referendum.

The dossier is expected to be raised by SNP veterans minister Keith Brown when he appears before the Commons defence select committee this week to answer questions on what the shape of an independent Scotland’s military would look like.

The SNP dossier highlights a number of parliamentary questions on defence assets and a regional breakdown of defence spending placed by the party’s Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson. Each time the response from MoD ministers has been that the information is either no longer produced or is not held centrally.

The issue has been further clouded by the decision of the UK Government to not publish another National Asset Register (NAR) which contained individual values for each item held by the MoD and other departments.

Instead, the government has replaced it with the Whole Government Accounts which was recently criticised by the Public Accounts Select Committee for failing to provide enough detail.

On regional spending, despite saying that no figures are produced any more, a recent freedom of information request showed that items are given location of work codes.

Mr Robertson said: “The unco-operative approach of the MoD to Scotland is totally unacceptable. Their tactical efforts are focused on scaremongering about independence together with the rest of the Whitehall machine.

“Just because the facts don’t suit the anti-independence campaign they are using Whitehall to suppress information which is in the public interest.”

The accusation has been denied by the MoD.

An MoD spokesman said: “The accusation that the MoD has tried to withhold information on defence spending in Scotland is categorically untrue. The defence budget is for the whole of the UK and not apportioned on a regional basis. Scotland benefits from the full spectrum of UK defence capabilities and activities that are funded by the defence budget.”