National Alliance Against Tolls - Speech to Fife Council - 7 March 2006

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Speech by Councillor John Mackenzie to Fife Council - 7 March 2006


"The widely rumoured and now confirmed removal of tolls from the Erskine Bridge leaves Fife in the unenviable and totally indefensible position, of being the only authority in the whole of Scotland subjected to tolling. And as a double whammy, we have tolling at both entrances. This is, frankly, nothing short of scandalous.

I have a simple message to send across the water: if no tolls are good enough for the rest of Scotland then they're good enough for Fife! We have no need for your dubious "special treatment" and find your comment that this is somehow "fair" a sick joke.

Like the poor, the past is always with us. We remember that the tolls on the Forth road bridge were declared to be temporary in nature and should have ended in 1995 but today, over a decade later, we are faced with the unpalatable prospect of a further extension. Let me say unequivocally, there should have been no extension, nor should there be any tolls. Mr Scott, can I advise you, in case you are in any doubt, that the only sensible, fair and realistic solution is for the crossing to be designated part of the national trunk road network and for the Scottish Executive to assume responsibility. In terms of its overall budget this could easily be accommodated: what is required is merely the political will to do so. Sadly this has been spectacularly noticeable by its absence!

As Fifers we have already endured a decade of discrimination, disadvantage and ultimately damage, which has affected; individuals who frequently have little choice but to use the bridge, our crucially important tourist trade and of paramount significance, our ability to remain economically competitive and to both retain and attract new businesses to Fife. This decision has perpetuated the incalculable damage heaped on Fife. Can I perhaps remind you that your primacy is of a temporary nature but the people of Fife, and indeed Scotland, have long memories?

Let us be absolutely clear: these tolls are effectively a tax on free movement into Fife. Moreover they are regressive in nature and impact disproportionately on our poorer constituents. Two years ago the average full-time wage in Fife was 6% below the Scottish average and we have a larger percentage of our population over pensionable age. Neither statistic, in any way, justifies our continued penalisation.

Colleagues, I believe the time has now come for us all to stand up for Fife, to fight this blatant injustice and to demand a retraction. The people of Skye fought a determined and ultimately successful campaign. It is incumbent on us to do likewise. I urge you to support the motion, setting aside narrow political differences and fighting for the greater good".

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