SNP vows to block road tolls north of Border

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ROAD tolls will be blocked north of the Border by ministers refusing to pass the legislation needed to make them work in Scotland, Government insiders revealed last night.

The UK Government is committed to tolls and is pressing ahead with 10 pilot schemes, all of which are south of the Border and could involve charges of up to 1.34 a mile in the most congested areas.

The SNP made its opposition to road tolls clear before the election, and a senior Government insider has now told Scotland on Sunday: "We are not going to allow it to happen."

Although Westminster has the power over transport policy to introduce UK-wide tolls, any such measures would have to be approved by a vote in the Scottish Parliament. More detailed aspects of the plan, such as laws allowing installation of equipment, would have to be authorised by the transport minister.

This means that even if the minority SNP Government lost a Holyrood vote on tolls, the transport minister could stop the move dead simply by refusing to rubber stamp minor aspects of the plan.

Previous studies flagged up six of the Scotland's worst traffic-congestion blackspots for charges of more than 1 a mile. They included Glasgow's Kingston Bridge, sections of the Edinburgh city bypass, the A8000 towards the Forth Road Bridge, the A80 between Glasgow and Cumbernauld and the A90 at Bridge of Dee near Aberdeen.

The Nationalist are opposed to road tolls because they believe it is better to coax drivers out of their cars through improved public transport and an expansion of park-and-ride schemes.

The source said: "We don't want road tolls and we don't agree with it. If it came to that we would simply refuse to sign off on the relevant pieces of legislation and the consents to allow it to go ahead in Scotland. Things like having the roadside technology installed and the like. It could not go ahead in Scotland without our consent and we are not going to allow it."

In addition to laws allowing installation of equipment, Scottish ministers would also have to agree to various aspects of the enforcement laws north of the Border.

Professor David Begg, director of the Centre for Transport Policy at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said: "It's very easy and popular to be against things, but it doesn't solve the problem of what to do about congestion on the M8."

John McGoldrick, of the No To Tolls campaign, said: "If some of the other parties at Holyrood came out and took the same stand as the SNP and the Scottish Tories then the policy would be dead as a 'national' one, even if for this purpose the nation was only England."

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said ministers in London had not yet taken any final decision on whether to bring in road pricing and that they were waiting for the results of pilot projects in England which are due to begin in the next two years.