National Alliance Against Tolls - Scotland Tolls News 2006
SCOTLAND TOLLS NEWS 2006
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Scotland News 2007 & 2008 (to March) Scotland News 2005 Edinburgh Toll Poll "News"
Saturday 30th December
Helen Eadie has - "Vast support for bill to abolish tolls" according to a report in today's Courier. The problem is that nothing is likely to happen with this bill or Bruce Crawford's bill.
The Courier also published this letter from us -
In Thursday's Courier, Lars Niven reported on the progress being made with the new Kincardine bridge. With the increasing calls for
another Forth road crossing, perhaps someone from the Executive could explain to Courier readers how it was decided that the new
bridge would only have a single carriageway. For a little more money they could have had more traffic lanes. Or is the idea that the
bridge will be congested, and give them an excuse to eventually toll it and thus encourage more people to grow wings?
Thursday 27th December
The Courier reports on the new toy bridge on the upper Forth - "Bridge about to shape up at Kincardine".
Saturday 21st December
More hype, including SNP proposing that a new crossing should be financed with "bonds", they don't say how the bonds are to be paid off - Tolls? Scotsman Friday - "SNP backs plan to go under the Forth" Courier Friday - "Tunnel mooted for new Forth crossing" Evening News Friday - "Engineer's delight as support for Forth tunnel starts to grow" Evening News Thursday - "Tunnel emerges as Forth favourite" Scotsman Thursday - "Timetable demand for new Forth crossing".
Wednesday 20th December
The alliance's petition has had two mentions - Today's Courier Tuesday's Evening News.
Tuesday 19th December
The Tay bridge board have shown good sense by again delaying wasting money on new tolls facility - Courier - "Toll plaza delay gives hope for campaign".
Tavish has agreed to building a new Forth road bridge, so they say - Scotsman Tuesday - "Nationalists and Green Party clash over Executive backing for new Forth crossing" Scotsman Tuesday - "With bridge facts all to hand, why did U-turn take so long?" BBC Tuesday - "Bridge replacement wins backing" Scotsman Saturday - "Confirmation of new Forth crossing may come before Christmas"
Friday 15th December
There are now at least 6 petitions to the Prime Minister against one form or other of tolls. So we have now started one against all tolls - existing and planned. The petition does not expire for another 12 months, so it is probably Gordon Brown who will get it!
Wednesday's Courier had this letter from us -
You reported on Wednesday that the Fife Lib Dems were backing the removal of tolls. It was also said that Willie Rennie MP and Councillor Jim Tolson are organising a petition against the toll.
In March, this motion was moved at Fife Council - "Firstly, that Fife Council and Dundee City Council lead a campaign to remove tolls on the Forth and Tay Bridges. Secondly, that we actively seek the support of the people of Fife and Dundee in our campaign. Thirdly, that we actively seek the support of all public and representative bodies in Fife and Dundee and fourthly, that we seek the support of all MSPs, MPs and all of Scotland's Councils."
56 councillors voted for this motion, including some of the Lib Dem councillors, but Councillor Jim Tolson was one of those who tried to stop it.
Also on Wednesday you reported on the new Transport plan from Tavish Scott and the Executive. The plan says "We will abolish road tolling across the whole of Scotland, when road user pricing is introduced".
Do Tavish, Willie and Jim, think that it is now OK to remove bridge tolls as the plan is now to bring in "road pricing", and road pricing doesn’t mean tolls — does it?"
On Tuesday the Evening Times reported on repairs to the now toll free Erskine bridge - "45 weeks of repairs on Erskine Bridge".
Monday 11th December
More of you know what - Evening News - "Business says act faster on Forth crossing".
Saturday 9th December
More from the Scotsman's campaign for a new bridge - "Decide now - or pay price at polls".
Friday 8th December
First Minister "pledges" new road bridge - Courier - "McConnell gives firm pledge on new Forth crossing" Scotsman - "McConnell accused over pledge on new Forth crossing".
Thursday 7th December
Last night's report about Shona Robison asking the Minister about the tolls "study" is in this morning's Courier.
Shona says "This could have been sorted months ago if MSPs had voted for my motion in March calling for tolls to be abolished. This would have allowed the people of Dundee and Fife to cross the Tay and Forth without the regressive charges.”. Unfortunately Shona's motion only related to the Tay tolls, despite our plea for a motion from an MSP to remove both tolls.
Two more stories in the Courier - "Businesses demand action on crossing" "FSB gives guarded support to road charging".
Wednesday 6th December
Shona Robison has been asking the Minister some questions about the tolls study. She could just as well have asked the man in the moon - Evening Telegraph - "Bridge toll study ‘waste of money’".
The Evening Times reports that Scotland is volunteering to be first in the UK with road pricing. Or to be more correct Nicol Stephen, the Lib Dem leader is volunteering Scotland - "Scotland could be first for road charging trial".
As expected Gordon is increasing fuel duty - Evening News - "Brown takes on Cameron in green pre-budget report".
Some more reports this morning on the transport plan which was released yesterday - Courier - "No Forth crossing verdict in strategy" Daily Record - "GREEN FOR GO" The Herald - "Pay-per-mile road charging pilot for Scottish drivers" Scotsman - "Transport plan reveals crackdown on speeding but no Forth crossing".
Online comments at the Scotsman include -
Jockyw - "No one has a clue what they are doing. How much time & money has been wasted with past, current & future spin?"
PeteB, St Andrews - "Another scheme for raising money that will be frittered away"
Mareng - "TAX TAX TAX!!"
Rab, Glasgow - "Executive are nothing but money grabbing parasites, that are being controled by london."
Mv - "Another TAX for the peasants of this small country, will tax the majority off the roads onto an already poor public transport system while those that can afford it will be able to drive their huge vehicles on the roads. Edinburgh council has created more congestion by its totally flawed transport policy, 50% reduction in traffic flow on roads leading into the city using bus lanes, mindless closing of roads around the city centre, footpaths moved into the centre of the roads in morningside to block traffic while buses stop, hatched lines everywhere at junctions to stop flow, etc..."
This is the press release that we sent out yesterday -
"Our first concern relates to the existing two bridge tolls, where the latest Executive consultation and study on the two tolls is
supposed to be completed later this month. Paragraph 115 of Tuesday's transport report says that - "We will abolish road tolling
across the whole of Scotland, when road user pricing is introduced". Does the Executive think we are all so daft that we don't know
"road pricing" is tolls?
This is further proof that the consultation and study will have been another sham exercise intended to mislead people. It will be
many years before Scotland attempts to introduce road pricing. Till then it appears that the intention is that the people of Fife
and Tayside will continue to suffer.
When road pricing is introduced, it will be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, with tolls that could be up to £1.50
Our other concern relates to road pricing with the Executive supporting the plans coming from the UK Government. Ken Livingstone
may be getting away with £8 tolls in London, but have the Executive already forgotten that last year the people of Edinburgh
rejected tolls by a margin of three to one? That result was despite a massive spin campaign and 40% of Edinburgh households not
having a car.
One reason that Edinburgh rejected tolls was that people didn't want a system where vast amounts would inevitably be wasted on
collection and enforcement. When Alistair Darling was the Transport Secretary he revealed that the initial cost of implementing road
pricing could be £62 billion for the UK. What a scandalous waste of taxpayers money.
The people of Edinburgh also realised that tolls would encourage some drivers to use longer and less suitable routes. With a complex
system of road pricing, we will have people confusedly driving round in circles to avoid the highest tolls.
Road pricing will waste money, increase driver frustration and will hit the poorest drivers the hardest. Drivers are already paying
one billion pounds a week in taxes, they want better roads not a toll tax."
The Courier reports that the Lib Dems are now backing the removal of the bridge tolls. They also say that Willie Rennie MP and Councillor Jim Tolson are organising a petition against the toll - "Fife Lib Dems come off the fence".Really?
In March, this motion was moved at Fife Council - "Firstly, that Fife Council and Dundee City Council lead a campaign to remove
tolls on the Forth and Tay Bridges. Secondly, that we actively seek the support of the people of Fife and Dundee in our campaign.
Thirdly, that we actively seek the support of all public and representative bodies in Fife and Dundee and fourthly, that we seek the
support of all MSPs, MPs and all of Scotland's Councils." 56 councillors voted for this motion, including some of the Lib Dem
councillors, but Councillor Jim Tolson was one of those who tried to stop it!!
Tuesday 5th December
Tavish the Toll has just released the Executive's latest master plan - "Scotland's National Transport Strategy ". They want tolls on most roads - BBC - "Transport 'roadmap' for way ahead". Laughably paragraph 115 of the reports says that - "We will abolish road tolling across the whole of Scotland, when road user pricing is introduced". Does he think we are all so daft that we don't know "road pricing" is tolls?
The BBC also has some views from us and others, it is disappointing to see that we appear to be the only ones opposed to this.
More doom on the Forth road bridge according to the Scotsman - this time it is the barriers, which they now think may have to be replaced costing millions and causing more delays - "Threat of more delays as 'too weak' crash barriers set for tests".
And more from last night's Evening News - "Strong winds bring chaos to drivers on Forth Road Bridge" "£7.8m rustbuster to stop rot on Forth Bridge cables".
Courier report on last night's meeting about a new bridge - "Urgency of need for new bridge stressed".
The Courier also had this letter from us -
"Recently you carried a story about the public meeting organised by FETA. It was said people would be given “the facts, no spin, no exaggeration, just the facts”.
Maybe so, but on Saturday you had another story about the Forth Road Bridge which referred to £15 million of debt.
The “fact” is that there is currently no debt on the bridge and the last published accounts showed that they had a surplus of nearly £19 million.
It seems that FETA may be about to borrow money which it doesn’t yet need. What makes this even odder is that when FETA applied for the last toll increase, they said it was necessary as they wanted to spend over £100 million on the bridge and the A8000.
The NAAT suggested to the Toll Inquiry in December 2004 that tolls should not be paying for the A8000, and that if all this spending was really necessary then FETA had the power to borrow and spread the cost over future years.
FETA persuaded the inquiry that the spending could or should not be financed by borrowing. We wonder what “facts” have changed?"
Monday 4th December
Scottish anti road group "Transform" are backing proposal for tolls on all roads - Evening News.
The Courier gives some publicity for tonight's meeting - "Road bridge facts to be spelled out". It is said that it will be "the facts, no spin, no exaggeration, just the facts”. Can this be relied on, from an organisation that have been spinning so long on the tolls "facts""?
The Scotsman campaign for a new bridge continues this morning with "Prosperity lies in a tale of more than two cities".
The Scotsman also gives space to David Begg, the architect of Edinburgh's defeated toll plans. He wants to make sure that when there are tolls on all Scotland's roads, that the money is spent on trains etc, rather than on reducing fuel duty - "Question marks over transport plans". It is pleasing to see from the online comments (towards bottom of the Scotsman page) that the readers of the Scotsman are not fooled -
Androsthenes from Edinburgh says "How appropriate!-Scotland having acted as guinea pigs for the poll tax, Executive collaborators want Scotland to be the testing ground for a tax which was devised to deal with England's traffic jams. Is there a limit to the depths these Holyrood toadies will sink to to please their English masters??".
Mart on Skye says "A stupid idea dreamt up by people who live in cities and don't need a car for work or other essential journeys.We already pay a differential road toll through fuel tax. I drive a 1.8 litre car and average 38mpg over the whole years motoring, A friend who lives in a city and drives a similar car only gets 22mpg. Consequently he pays more tax for using congested roads."
Sunday 3rd December
There is to be a public meeting about the need for a new Forth Road Bridge. The meeting has been organised by FETA, who are fighting hard to keep the tolls, and may be using this to distract attention from the tolls issue. The meeting is at the Glen Pavilion, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline at 7 pm tomorrow (Monday).
We are not sure whether this is part of the campaign for a new bridge or just more aggravation Scotsman Saturday - "Road bridge repairs will mean extra year of chaos".
In the latest published accounts FETA, the Forth road bridge authority, had no borrowings and a surplus of £19 million. This was despite spending millions on the A8000 road and on new toll equipment. Now we have headlines saying - Courier Saturday - "£15m debt but no rise in Forth Bridge tolls" Evening News Saturday - "Forth bridge chiefs in £15m debt". How much contempt do the politicians have for the people?
There has been a lot over the last few days about an Australian telling the British Government what they want to hear - "Let's have a lot more road tolls!" -
Scotsman Saturday - "MSPs to ask for tax breaks in return for road charges" The Herald Saturday - "The wrong direction" The Daily Record Saturday - "DRIVERS FACE TOLLS OF £1.35 A MILE" Evening News Saturday - "Road tolls in UK 'inevitable' to raise public transport cash" Scotland on Sunday - "Are we being taken for a ride?" Sunday Herald - "Greens prepare to block ‘damaging’ transport strategy".
Friday 1st December
More of the same from the Scotsman, though judging by the online comments, not many of their readers have been duped by this campaign -
Scotsman Friday - "Great divide: a tale of two Scotlands".
Scotsman Thursday - "Portrait of a grand old lady who is sadly past her prime".
Scotsman Wednesday - "Call for 'iconic' Forth road crossing to stand as a 'heart-soaring' symbol of Scottish self-belief".
Tuesday 28th November
More hype about the Forth Road bridge falling down and the need for a new bridge. The best is probably today's, which reassures the transport lobby that there will be no more capacity for cars -
Scotsman Tuesday - "Free-for-all could end as buses and cars with passengers take priority over lone drivers".
Scotsman Monday - "14 wasted years of dither and delay".
Scotsman Saturday- "Clamour grows for bridge or tunnel".
One of the reactions from readers - Carlo from Fort William says - "The great and the good put their weight behind the campaign for a new bridge....what a surprise!!!!"
The Evening News reports that traffic volumes on the Forth Road bridge are down - "Road bridge traffic levels head south".
Saturday 25th November
Alex Salmond has told the Courier that if the SNP win the next election, he will remove the tolls from the Forth and Tay Bridges - "SNP vow to scrap tolls in 100 days".
This is welcome news and certainly trumps Labour's statement. Labour have merely said that they will look at the tolls yet again, and as good as said that they will not remove them because of the need for a new Forth crossing. But what about all those MSPs who already have a seat at Holyrood? Any one of them could have put forward a motion to ask the Executive to remove both the tolls, now. No one from any party has done so.
Then we have FETA which has both Labour, Lib Dem and SNP members. FETA is actively fighting to keep the Forth road bridge tolls and has just wasted £5 million on a tolls "plaza".
What are the voters of Fife and Tayside to believe?
Friday 24th November
More about the Forth Road bridge falling down and the need for a new bridge -
Evening News - "MSP brands warnings over Forth Road Bridge 'alarmist'".
Scotsman - "Engineering marvel that has become victim of its own success".
As you may notice this issue is stimulating a lot of reaction from readers, many of whom are wondering who or what is behind this campaign.
An English Labour MP (Andrew MacKinlay, the MP for Thurrock in Essex) says he will introduce a private members' bill at Westminster. He wants Scottish drivers charged £1.50 for every journey taking them south of the border. It would not apply in the other direction. His point is that drivers are being charged elsewhere including driving from his constituency in Essex into Kent. The SNP are most upset, though it would be better if they made their own position clear on road pricing and more particularly on Scotland's two remaining bridge tolls. Apart from Bruce Crawford, the SNP are sitting on the fence. - Courier - "‘Scots should pay to drive into England’".
Thursday 23rd November
Last night's Evening News had Scottish MPs backing tolls - "MP quizzed on A1 road tolls cash".
Wednesday 22nd November
The Scotsman is apparently convinced that the Forth Road bridge is falling down and has joined in the campaign for a new bridge. Here are some of the recent articles -
Wednesday 22nd - "Minister hints at decision on new crossing before elections".
Tuesday 21st - "A new crossing – or Scotland faces stark economic future".
Tuesday 21st - "Options still open as time ticks by for starting the operation".
Monday 20th - "We need a decision now to avert economic disaster".
Monday 20th - "Dire condition of road bridge proves our politicians must act".
One of the Scotsman readers has written in online - "Can't you see what's going on? Are you all utterly daft?
The bridge authority want a new bridge, so they lobby for one. More toys, more prestige, more stalls at bridge conferences with shiny architects' drawings.". A new bridge may be desirable for various reasons, but NAATS view is that this hysteria is intended to distract people away from the issue of the tolls. After all, where else is there a bridge which is falling down?
Sunday 19th November
According to the north of the border edition of the Troll Times, the Labour manifesto for the coming election will say that Jack and his colleagues will "examine positively the case for partial or full abolition of both toll systems". Really? How many votes will they get for just saying that they will be looking at this yet again? - None!
Saturday 18th November
It seems that the Forth bridge is falling down again!! Courier - "Further wire snaps hit Forth Bridge".
Delays on the Forth bridge caused by road surfacing work and installing a dehumidification system for the cables -
Courier - "Resurfacing work will mean delays on bridge".
The Tay bridge is not falling down but they are to spend some money on improving the safety of the inspection gantries - Courier - "Road bridge work reveals need for vital repairs".
Thursday 9th November
Some views on the "Stern" report - Courier (top two letters).
Wednesday 8th November
Today's Courier has a letter from us with our reaction to last Friday's news that MSPs were promising a new Forth road bridge and an end to tolls.
David Chalmers from the Federation of Small Businesses gives FSB reaction to the call for an "iconic" new Forth road bridge. The FSB do not want "a grandiose structure to massage the egos of decision-makers". They instead call for what ever is most practical and can be built quickly. David also said "It is also heartening to see that the principle of abolishing tolls on both Forth and Tay bridges was accepted." - Courier - "Bridge budget "top priority""
Today's Courier also has details of a recent opinion poll of voting intentions in Mid Scotland and Fife. The poll shows the main parties in the order of SNP, Lib Dem, and Labour. People vote on a whole collection of issues, but it is a pity that the party which is placed second is still keen to keep the tolls and to even increase them.
Meanwhile over in Glasgow, the Herald's Iain Macwhirter (who attacked the people of Edinburgh for voting against tolls) has a go at the Executive for being pro roads and anti tolls. If only! "Does transport policy have any link to reality?"
Tuesday 7th November
More of the same - Courier - "Forth crossing 'a race against time'"
Monday 6th November
More nonsense this morning about a new Forth bridge. The politicians might as well promise that it will be made of gold, as it is so distant a prospect - Courier - "MSP in call for "iconic" new bridge". While we wait for this new bridge, perhaps he and his fellow MSPs can tell us when the existing tolls will be lifted from Fife and
Saturday 4th November
Yesterday it was reported that politicians were promising a new Forth bridge, and it was even suggested that they were "promising" to remove the tolls -
Courier - "Campaign takes a major step forward" Courier - "Green light for new Forth crossing" Scotsman - "Pressure mounts for new bridge decision" Evening News - "Labour ready to back 'vital' new Forth crossing" BBC - "New Forth Road bridge proposals"
We do not share the optimism that politicians will "examine positively full or partial abolition"
of the two tolls.
The politicians of all parties have so far let the people of Fife and Tayside down, and "maybe" promises are as worthless as the claims that were made during the Dunfermline West by election. That was won by a Liberal Democrat, and within weeks the Liberal Democrat Minister was signing an Order that the Forth tolls (which were due to end on 31st March) should be kept.
They say they will abolish the tolls but the Forth bridge board has just built a tolls plaza costing £5 million and in August formally told the Executive that the tolls should be kept. This has all been done without a peep from any of the parties.
The Labour led coalition is of course already carrying out yet another "study" of the tolls. The results of that study are a
foregone conclusion. The Executive appointed London based consultants who usually advise bodies that want to increase tolls. Two years ago they did a similar study on the Humber Bridge tolls. They are the most expensive bridge tolls in Britain (£5.40 for a car making a return journey). What did the consultants recommend? They said - "Retain tolls and continue to increase them in line with inflation".
The promises of a new Forth crossing are just to distract attention away from the tolls. The time taken to agree the need for a new crossing, decide where it will go and what sort of crossing it will be, means that today's politicians would be long retired before their promises can be tested. But with the tolls they are desperate to find an excuse to do nothing, because the removal of tolls is something that could be achieved now.
If a new Forth crossing is ever built, and the existing unfair stranglehold of tolls has not been removed, then it will likely be a PFI pay day for bankers and advisers, and misery for the ordinary people, as happened in Skye.
Some months ago NAATS made a Freedom of Information request for the number of consultation submissions to the latest Tolls Study. This was treated by the Executive as if it was a state secret, and they refused to tells us. But they have at last now given us an answer - There were 89 submissions including 7 from local or public authorities. The Dundee, Fife and West Lothian Councils and the Tay bridge board want tolls removed. Edinburgh Council, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency want the tolls kept and increased.
Thursday 2nd November
Here is an item from FETA's PR people that seemed to get into none of the Scottish papers, so here it is from south of the border on TNN - "A Bridge Too Few?".
Wednesday 1st November
This morning's Courier reports that Mark Ruskell, Green MSP, wants more money spent on the railways and "smart" tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges, to "reduce car use".
If Mark got his way then Gordon Brown would lose the £50 billion a year that he gets in taxes from roads users. It is those taxes which help to subsidise Mark's train journeys.
The only "smart" move would be to scrap the tolls, and the queues that they cause. This is also the only fair course of action for Fife and Tayside.
Last Thursday's Courier reported on more demands for a new Forth road bridge - "Call for start on Forth crossing". We are a bit suspicious of what may be behind these demands, particularly when Andrew Arbuckle MSP says "For many hauliers and businesses, the major issue is not the level of tolls."
Saturday 21st October
The Courier reports that "Chancellor Gordon Brown is to head up a multi-agency jobs taskforce aimed at removing barriers to employment in Fife." Good for Gordon. Perhaps he can start by pressing for the tolls to be removed. When he was in Opposition he was in favour of this. Or is the situation now that he prefers to see his fellow Fifers suffer rather than lose an insignificant sum from his coffers?
Friday 20th October
One of the SKAT campaigners against the Skye tolls - Alexander Smith who is now 80 - has asked a Law Lord to clear his criminal convictions for opposing the tolls - BBC - "Ageing islander's plea over tolls".
Alexander and others appealed to the Law Lords in 1998 against their convictions -(this includes a link "HERE" to the full judgement).
Wednesday 18th October
Our alliance south of the border yesterday assisted Gerry Watt of Lincoln who was trying to stop a tolls increase on the River Trent near Lincoln The company that wants to increase the tolls, were represented at the Inquiry by Steer, Davies, Gleave, a London based company. The same company that the Scottish Executive have hired to advise them on the future of the tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges!
Last Friday's Courier had a story about a possible new bridge across the Forth - "SNP Forth crossing vow". How about a vow to end the tolls?
Last week's papers had a story about a new ferry service across the Forth. - Courier on Thursday - "New study of Forth ferry plan launched" Evening News on Wednesday - "£750,000 move to get city's Forth ferry crossing afloat". A ferry service is bound to lose money. We hope that by the time one is introduced, there will no longer be tolls on the bridges that could be used to subsidise it.
Sunday 8th October
There was a letter in the Dunfermline Press on 26th September. It was from one of the Fife Council representatives on the Forth Road bridge board. He is a strong backer of keeping the tolls. He was responding to letters from Tom Minogue (see 15th September). Amazingly the councillor says that he also doubts the claims about increased congestion if the tolls are removed. He says that he has asked Fife Council to look at this. But the sting is in the tail. He says - "We are however in urgent need of a replacement crossing and the funding of this and the funding of its maintenance must be secure." In other words if the reason of congestion doesn't hold water then let's bring up the red herring of another bridge.
Saturday 7th October
R Alder of Dalgety Bay had this fine letter in today's Scotsman - "Now that the new toll booths at the Forth Road Bridge have been in use for a week or two, it is obvious they are a disaster; there are queues all the time. The sooner the tolls are removed and the traffic allowed to use the highway unimpeded the better. The bridge should be declared a trunk road, maintained by the government and managed by the transport executive out of the Exchequer. ". We wonder what the purpose was in spending £5 million on this monstrosity, and its toll barriers.
More demands for a new Forth road bridge, including a statement that "the bridge will be closed to heavy goods vehicles in 2013" - Courier - "Bridge fears may drive firms away-hauliers". We wish they would make their minds up as to whether the bridge is falling down or not. These tales may unneccessarily scare more businesses away from the area, and are some of those behind these stories just trying to distract attention away from the issue of the tolls?
Saturday 30th September
The Evening news repeats the report about Willie Rennie puzzling over whether Forth road bridge traffic would increase by almost a quarter if tolls were removed. Reactions from EN readers include -
Joe from Livingston - "Judging by my experience of driving over the almost empty toll-free Erskine Bridge in both directions a few weeks ago the scrapping of tolls on the FRB would decrease traffic!"
Scott - "Why dont we just try it out for a year or so and see? Or is that just too much COMMON SENSE?"
Jim - "Living in Fife I used the bridge daily to come to town which I did not do willingly due to tolls and parking charges, apart from the time spent sitting in traffic. I now travel by public transport albeit in ramshackle dirty Stagecoach buses, and, would continue to do so even if the tolls were removed. I do not believe that a toll free bridge would result in a big increase in traffic. If our public transport links to the city were improved with clean comfortable alternatives I am sure that many would use them, toll or no toll."
Friday 29th September
The most astounding news of the year is that Willie Rennie is trying to give the impression that he is against the Forth bridge road tolls. His party is the most fanatical of those who want to keep the tolls, if voters had been aware of this, Willie would not have his seat at Westminster - Courier - "FETA urged to provide congestion rise evidence".
Thursday 28th September
Audit Scotland say that it will cost £2 billion to bring Scotland's roads up to scratch. The reaction of the Executive is that they are already spending over £300 million on trunk roads and motorways. The Minister, Tavish Scott said at an interview that they were deliberately keeping spending on roads low to persuade drivers to use public transport
- Courier - "Staggering £2 billion bill for ruined roads" BBC - "Traffic target 'likely to fail'" BBC - some views.
A more staggering figure is the amount charged by Gordon Brown on Scotland's drivers through fuel duty and other taxes on roads use - it's £4 billion a year. If the politicians continue to do little to improve and maintain the roads, they may eventually find that they have killed both this golden goose and Scotland's economy.
Tuesday 26th September
Another call for a new Forth road bridge as it has been claimed that lorries will be banned from the existing "rusty" bridge by 2013 - Courier - "Business leader's dire warning on bridge".
We missed an article in the Scotsman two weeks ago from Donald Anderson - the man behind Edinburgh's Tolls plan. He said "The debate on bridge tolls has become puerile, with no thought given to congestion or the vast increase in traffic coming into Edinburgh." Donald wants Labour to ally with the Greens and combat the "single greatest threat to our way of life". No it's not war or over population or disease - it's climate change.
Another article we missed was in last Tuesday's Herald. Iain Macwhirter, their chief political correspondent, was reporting on the Lib Dem conference. He criticised them for not declaring support for road pricing and congestion charging. In February 2005 he also criticsed the people of Edinburgh for voting "NO" in the Toll poll. Nice to see that we have such strong support from one of Scotland's main papers!
Saturday 23rd September
Today's Courier has a letter from Bill Hunter of Glenrothes. Given their actions on tolls, he suggests what they should do with the Parliament building - Third letter "Hand it back to brewers".
Friday's Courier had a letter from Graeme of Dundee reacting to the fall in Tay road bridge traffic. He thinks that this should be celebrated as he said it is good for the environment.
On Thursday at Holyrood there was a debate on a new rail link to Edinburgh airport. Bruce Crawford suggested that the money would be better spent on a new Forth road bridge. He was attacked by Helen Eadie, though she also wants a new road bridge. Both of them seem to have the idea from the authorities that the existing bridge will be closed due to rusty cables - Friday's Courier - "Call for rail link cash to fund Forth crossing".
Thursday's Evening News had a letter from Tom Minogue following on from the letter on Tuesday -
Bridge spin should be laid to rust
John Carson is, of course, right about the increased reporting by the Forth Estuary Transport Authority's PR machine. Paid for by us, they spend our toll money by spinning stories in newspapers such as "Bridge bosses hail engineers for eagle-eye safety checks" (News, August 26).
This story dealt with comments by Portobello councillor and FETA chairman Lawrence Marshall about the corrosion found in the suspension cable about which he opined: "We are lucky to have some of the best engineering talent in the world looking after the Forth Road Bridge," adding "Had it not been for FETA's proactive investigation, serious corrosion would have gone unchecked."
FETA's convener is simply recycling a press release from FETA's PR consultants which makes a virtue out of the sad fact that FETA's highly-paid bridge staff, aided by their costly engineering consultants, have, for over 40 years, failed to notice that water has seeped into the supposedly well-maintained and watertight suspension-cable and combined with air to make - shoshock, horror - rust! Once discovered, FETA asks without blushing: "Who could have foreseen it?"
Well, actually just about anyone could have foreseen it.
Rust (a red or brown oxide coating on iron or steel caused by the action of oxygen and moisture) has been known about since the dawn of the Iron Age when, to prevent it, primitive man smeared animal fat on their spearheads. Not exactly rocket science, is it?
And hardly cause for celebration that it went undetected for so long.
Wednesday's Couier reported on the bridge tolls study and some of the information that we have obtained using the Freedom of Information Act - "Bridges' tolls study splits Tay and Forth". This is what we got from the Executive.
Also on Wednesday the Scotsman published a short letter from us on the new Forth bridge tolls plaza.
Tuesday's Evening News had a letter from John Carson of South Queensferry who is campaigning for a new crossing of the Forth by tunnel (article in Evening News on 25th July)-
Bridge's problems are politically driven
I notice from increased reporting that the Forth Estuary Transport Authority's PR machine is ramping up its efforts. The recent article on high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs) smacks of a transport authority in its death throes, that knows it has no transport brief left and is out to find something to do other than maintain the current bridge, which is now its only objective.
I have been to the United States to look at their tolled highways. They do have HOVs in the States but these are invariably on four or five-lane tolled highways. They are used at peak times to varying degrees but like many of our bus lanes they remain underused for most of the day.
It strikes me that FETA is being politically manoeuvred by Edinburgh City Council to reinstate "road pricing" by another means, or at least the effects of road pricing. The article talks about congestion - let's look at the fact on this: the A8000 replacement is well under way and by this time next year the link should be substantially complete.
This will effectively remove congestion on the bridge going south. With regards to northbound traffic, the only congestion around the bridge is the collection of tolls and the construction of the new tolling plaza.
These problems are politically induced and when you link them to the reluctance of the various parties to deal with the main issue of whether to build a second crossing then we have a stalemate. It is not in the current Government's interest that a decision should be taken before the upcoming 2007 elections and therefore they have delayed the finding of any report.
The individuals who appear to have an inordinate say in these issues will neither vote for a second crossing nor the removal of tolls. These issues will be one of the major topics in the upcoming elections; it is incumbent on all voters in the east of Scotland to question the various parties on their intentions regarding these issues.
Tuesday 19th September
The Courier reports that there was a fall in Tay bridge traffic last year but that there is an increase this year - "Fall in Tay bridge traffic seen as blip".
On 7th September Britain's latest National Travel Survey was published. It continued the trend in recent years. There is almost no increase in the distance travelled per person. The average annual increase over last 10 years is about 25 miles a year, or about 0.4%, and most of that has come from travel by planes and trains.
Saturday 16th September
Further reports on the new tolls plaza -
The Scotsman - "Forth Bridge revamp date". Interesting that "One-third of car drivers crossing the bridge are expected to switch to electronic tolling, using "e-tags" attached to windscreens, within three years." So much for the latest review of tolls then! The online comments to the story include this from "Pauline of Dunfermline" -
"Well done to the boffins who came up with the wonderful idea of not letting too many cars through the new toll plaza at any one time. what a waste of money it would have been if everyone just whizzed through and did not stop to admire the new construction! It also gives drivers the chance to enjoy watching the pretty pattern of cars heading across the bridge in a crocodile line. Wouldn't it have been great if someone had thought about the traffic building up waiting to be allowed through the tolls! The last two nights have been a nightmare for northbound traffic who can now add about an hour to their daily commute just to sit in a rediculous traffic queue on every approach road. How come none of these "clever" people anticipated what the knock on effect of holding cars at the tolls would be? Should they not have concentrated on getting the whole traffic system moving smoothly not just the bridge?"
From the Beeb - "New bridge toll system to begin".
Friday 15th September
Today we wrote to some of the MSPs about the tolls, here is part of what we said -
Our most recent Freedom of Information request was for a copy of the specification that was given to the prospective consultants who would undertake the latest "Study" of the tolls. Any firms in Scotland or elsewhere that asked for this would have been given it some time ago, but we had to wait till this Tuesday, and have been given a "redacted" version.
Our view is that the Executive are determined to hold on to the two tolls, and that the study which has been specified by the Executive is unlikely to make a difference. One thing that we have now learnt is the timetable - "It is anticipated that the study will commence on 4 September 2006 and the contractor must be in a position to begin the project by that date. The work should be complete by 1 December, with a draft final report submitted to the Scottish Executive by 11 December 2006." We hope that MSPs will press the Executive to release this report promptly.
Two proposals for Member's Bills to remove the tolls were made (one by Bruce Crawford was lodged on 9th May, and another by Helen Eadie was lodged on 22nd June). It became clear some time ago that Helen's Bill was too late to be considered in this Parliament, and on Monday it was revealed that Bruce's Bill was also somehow too late. You will understand that the people of Fife and Tayside may be a bit puzzled as to why there will not only be no Bill in this Parliament, but there has not even been a debate on a motion to remove both the tolls.
Removing both the tolls is a question of fairness and justice; the Executive's study, whatever else it does, will ignore them.
There is a letter in this morning's Courier from John Lindsay of Glenrothes -
"Sir,-Alas! An administrative error and procedural practices have further delayed any decision-making on the Tay and Forth bridge tolls saga.
Should those concerned eventually start another round of costly reviews, surveys, consultations, computer models etc., etc., they might eliminate one ponderable by conducting a fairly simple experiment.
To settle the speculation, concerning traffic congestion and so on, simply arrange a no-toll period of at least four days-including a weekend.
Widely publicise this action for two or three weeks in advance and set up a comprehensive range of monitoring devices to record traffic flows, air quality, etc., then compare the findings against the status quo. Who could argue then?
(Don't answer that!)"
Two letters this week in the Dunfermline Press - both in response to the story from 2 weeks ago (see Sunday 3rd) -
One letter is from Tom Minogue. He says -
"Councillor Tony Martin, who is also on the Feta board, said that he didn't want the bridge tolls abolished as that would mean increased congestion.
I admire the councillor's bravery in supporting a policy that his constituents don't want. But I don't agree with his analysis. The existing congestion around the bridge is mainly caused by the tolls themselves and by the inadequate A8000.
Councillor Martin says that traffic will increase by 21 percent if the tolls were abolished. Those figures come from work done for the Executive. When under the Freedom of Information Act we asked what instructions had been given to those who calculated this figure, the Executive told us that it was not in the public interest to tell us. Councillor Martin was at the last Feta board meeting when, under questioning, they couldn't justify the 21 per cent stating that "traffic modelling isn't my forte". Is this figure any better than anyone else's guess?
We would expect there to be an increase in off peak travel due to more local people and visitors travelling for leisure or to visit friends and family. But it is most likely that when the tolls are removed there will be little or no increase in peak period traffic. The people travelling in the peak period are going to or from work, and they go by road because there is little choice for the particular journey that each person is making.
I suggest that most Fifers, like all the people in the rest of Scotland would rather risk an increase in traffic, than have to pay this iniquitous toll tax."
The other letter is from D Anderson of Crossford -
"I have seldom read a more nonsensical article than the one by Councillor Tony Martin and Feta regarding the hypothetical theory that removing tolls would result in a 21 per cent increase in traffic and lead to gridlocking.
Looking at this in a rational way, first off where would this traffic come from? Is Councillor Martin seriously suggesting that traffic is at present using Kincardine bridge to avoid paying a £1 toll? In my car I would save £1 and spend £4 on fuel, a net loss of £3. Add on the additional journey time plus wear and tear on the vehicle and the whole exercise becomes riduculous.
Secondly, why on earth should there be any hold-up at the bridge? Remove the tolls and it becomes just a piece of road between Lothian and Fife and there is absolutely no reason why traffic should be held up on an open road.
With regard to funding a new bridge, may I ask who funded the recent £100 million bridge from the Isle of Sheppey? No problemns finding that kind of money for the South east then. At present motorists contribute over £44 billion to the Treasury so I am quite confident that a second road bridge would hardly dent that sum of money.
Lastly, it seems to me that there are too many vested interests prating on about the necessity of keeping tolls. Would we really miss Feta and its hangers-on?"
Thursday 14th September
Oh dear! The new tolls plaza on the Forth bridge will soon be in use. The building of this £5 million plaza followed by the retrospective application for planning permission shows what FETA and Edinburgh think of both bridge users and the residents of the Stoneyflatts estate overlooking the bridge - Courier - "Bridge toll booths test before changeover".
Tuesday 12th September
John Mackenzie from Fife Council has issued a rallying cry against the two tolls - Courier - "Councillor calls for 'toll-free Scotland'" Let's hope his call stirs up some of the other councillors!
The Courier has published our reaction to yesterday's news that Bruce Crawford's Bill has been sunk - "This process was scuppered before it started".
Monday 11th September
The Courier reports that "Blunder scuppers bridge tolls vote". It seems that Bruce Crawford's Bill to abolish the two tolls has run out of time. Strange.
Friday 8th September
This morning's Courier has the story about a "split" on the Tay bridge board - "Tolls shock sparks bridge board split". The Courier story concludes - "However, it is the issue of fairness that is currently seen as the strongest argument for removing tolls as critics have claimed the Executive is guilty of a west coast bias."
Thursday 7th September
Tonight's Evening Telegraph has John Letford, the Dundee Lord Provost, reacting to yesterday's leak from Councillor Rumney. The Lord Provost says that he want both tolls removed but would accept a deal that only removed the Tay tolls - "Toll-free Tay a priority".
This was in yesterday's Courier - "Concern at "shocking" bridge tolls possibility". Councillor Rumney has "heard it's a strong possibility that tolls will be removed from the Tay Bridge but retained on the Forth Bridge". His position on the tolls is not clear - (On the 23rd June, FETA agreed "To delegate to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Convener and Vice-Convener, to submit factual evidence to the Scottish Executive by 17 August 2006." On the 19th of August the Courier reported FETA's submission - "Forth tolls should stay, says FETA". The FETA Convener was Lawrence Marshall from Edinburgh who want to keep the tolls. But the Vice -Convener was none other than Mike Rumney). But we welcome what was said by Councillor Alan Kenney - "The people of Fife are being disadvantaged by tolls. We have made a decision on behalf of the people of Fife (to oppose tolls), let's stick to it and move forward. I am getting sick and tired, and so are the people out there, about calls for reports on this and that. It is a delaying tactic." and Councillor Jock Cameron - "We should stick to our guns and abolish tolls and get a level playing field for Fife.".
Sunday 3rd September
There have been suggestions from FETA and others that a lane of the M90 and other roads be reserved for car sharing. Our reaction was in Friday's Scotsman:-
"With regard to the suggestion that car-sharing lanes be introduced in Aberdeen and on the M90, this is a good idea but it should be encouraged in other ways. Any system that reserves a lane for just one type of vehicle means that road space is wasted and both the number of accidents and driver frustration is increased."
Thursday's Dunfermline Press ran this story -
No tolls equals longer tailbacks
HUGE tailbacks will cost West Fife more than bridge tolls according to one senior councillor.
Lib Dem Tony Martin, councillor for Pitcorthie, reckons the area's businesses will be out of pocket even if the bridge toll is binned.
Bridge bosses have been asked by the Scottish Executive for their view on whether tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges should be kept or scrapped.
And in its response, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (Feta) has suggested that scrapping tolls would see traffic soar by a gridlock-inducing 21 per cent taking congestion and environmental damage to a level far worse than currently experienced.
That prompted Councillor Martin to tell colleagues at Feta's latest board meeting on Friday, "Congestion costs more money than tolls. If people are sitting in congestion for long periods of time, that costs businesses a lot more money than tolls."
Mr Martin admitted tolls was an issue that sparked "different feelings" and added, "It's difficult to make a judgement on whether this 21 per cent is significant or not.
"All we can say is that the experts all say there will be a significant increase in traffic (if tolls are abolished)."
He said Fife Council would be discussing its own response at a meeting today (Thursday), which he said came to a different conclusion on the issue of fairness of tolls.
"There's an issue of fairness: who pays tolls for which crossing and also a practical issue: what happens if we actually do it," he said.
"It appears to me that it's not a clever thing to do to make a situation worse."
We wonder how many people apart from Councillor Martin believe that congestion will be worse if the tolls are removed?
The week before the Dunfermline Press had a debate on the tolls. The case for tolls was put by the Edinburgh councillor who heads the Forth bridge authority. The case against was by Tom Minogue:- "Should tolls be retained?". The editorial made it quite clear that the tolls are an "iniquity".
Thursday 31st August
Some of the stories over the last 7 days while we took a break:-
Tonight's Evening News reports on Edinburgh giving permission for the new tolls plaza on the Forth bridge:- "Controversial toll booth plaza gets a belated thumbs-up from planners". This was first reported in the Evening News last Friday.
The News also reports on FETA's attendance at a conference in USA on bridge corrosion - "Bridge chiefs get corrosion message across". The News does not mention that FETA attended a conference on this in USA as long ago as 1998. If anyone is getting theitr message across it is the spin doctors who are of course paid for from the tolls. Perhaps they deserve a rise?
This morning's Courier had 2 letters. "Tolls not real issue behind bridge car numbers" from John Imlay of Newport-on-Tay says that whether the Tay bridge is tolled or not, it will make no difference to whether people travel by car or bus. "Spin now a real art" from Tom Minogue is all about Rust! - Letters.
The Herald had a report "McConnell favours new Forth road bridge" on what Jack told Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce business breakfast yesterday - "a decision on a possible replacement will not be made until spring, later than business leaders had hoped, but he gave his clearest backing yet to ensuring a crossing is in place: "I'm absolutely committed to having a crossing over the Forth," he said." Really?
Today's Scotsman says that Aberdeen City Council official want to introduce car sharing lanes:- "Car-sharing lanes could add to jams, warns watchdog". Tuesday's Evening News said that our old friends FETA also want one of the M90 lanes to be reserved for car sharers:- "Bridge chiefs want car-share lane to slam brakes on jams". Car sharing is a good idea, but any system that reserves a lane for just one type of vehicle means that road space is wasted and the number of accidents increased.
Yesterday's Courier had a letter supporting the Scottish Executive's traffic model. The writer said that despite Dundee's traffic model showing there would be less congestion if the Tay bridge tolls were removed, there would be more because the removal of tolls would encourage traffic growth in the wider area.
This Tuesday's Evening News reported:- "Anti-toll protesters deny bridge traffic will rise". This is a fuller of what we had said-
The Forth bridge traffic traffic figure for January to July, is lower than the 3 previous years: 2006 northbound - 6802 thousand, 2005 - 6851 thousand, 2004 - 6832 thousand, 2003 - 6900 thousand. (Even if you allow for the 30,000 estimated traffic on the one day strike, 2006 is still lower than 2003 and 2005, though almost the same as 2004.)
In our view it is a fallacy to suggest that if the tolls are removed, then traffic will increase by "21%" or any other figure.
The occupants of vehicles on the bridge during peak periods are people going to work. Bridge tolls would have to be punitive to stop people from going to work or going by what is to them the most convenient way.
Removing tolls would mainly have an affect outside the peak period, when more people would be encouraged to cross the river, both ways, to visits friends and family and for leisure. Despite what people in Edinburgh might think, those crossing the bridge are not all going to Edinburgh, but for those that are, then more park and ride schemes might help.
There are many things that can be done to reduce congestion in peak periods in the area around the bridge. The A8000 scheme will be a big help, as of course would removing tolls.
There may still be a need for another bridge, if not for traffic growth, then as an insurance against something happening to the existing bridge. But any new bridge should not be tolled or used as an excuse for keeping tolls on the existing bridge. We don't want another Skye bridge that benefits the banks and the middle men, but no one else."
Tuesday's Courier reported on a call for a Tay bridge crossing at Scone:- ""Crying need" for third Tay crossing at Perth-MP". The call is backed by Andrew Arbuckle MSP. He apparently supports tolls. Does he want this tolled as well?
The Courier had a letter from someone who has the same name as a member of Dundee's Green Party. The writer attacks "The decision of the Dundee councillors to unanimously back the abolition of the Tay Road Bridge tolls" and ended "Sadly, the health of the citizens of Dundee, the impact on the environment and the lot of the bridge toll employees and their families have been put to one side in favour of populist and unprincipled policies."
There is another letter from someone in Auchenblae who also wants the tolls kept, but moved to the south side of the bridge so that "Queues of Fife-bound traffic would form on the bridge, not in the city!"
On Saturday, Brian Allison in the Courier reported that Dundee City Council's Traffic model was forecasting that congestion would decrease if tolls on the Tay bridge were removed:- "Model suggests abolishing bridge tolls cuts congestion".
Friday's Evening News reported that residents had lost their battle over planning permission for the Forth bridge tolls plaza monstrosity:- "'Eyesore' bridge toll booth wins backing".
In last Thursday's Evening News, Alan Roden reported on opposition from Edinburgh both to removal of tolls and to any increase in road capacity across the Forth:- "Traffic levels 'will double' if tolls axed on new road bridge".
Last Thursday's Courier reports on call from Fife Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise for a new Forth road bridge - "Bridge problems a massive threat". FETA can't make up their mind as to whether to say what a wonderful job they are doing or whether the existing bridge will have to be closed.
The Courier also had our reaction to FETA's cable corrosion claims the day before - "Who wants this system?" (third letter).
Last Thursday's Scotsman printed our reply to letter on the 22nd from John Mackenzie of Scone:-
"With regard to the letter (22 August) from John Mackenzie, apparently the main reason for keeping tolls is that, otherwise, traffic would increase. But the same could be said for other roads. Why should users of the Forth bridge be discriminated against?
In any case, the main reasons for congestion are the queues at toll booths, and the inadequacy of the A8000. This road, which the Executive said was "strategic", is being improved using bridge tolls money.
Mr Mackenzie also says a new bridge is needed, and "how could this be paid for if not by tolls?". But a new untolled bridge is being built (at Kincardine).
We calculate that a privately-financed crossing in the Queensferry area would have to charge a £7 toll. At that rate, no-one would use it, nor bankers finance it. Even if they did, does anyone want another Skye Bridge fiasco?"
Wednesday 23rd August
Fife Today / Glenrothes Gazette report on the different attitude to tolls between those running the Forth bridge and those running the Tay bridge:- "BRIDGE CHIEFS CAN'T AGREE ON TOLLS".
The Evening News had a story on air pollution in Edinburgh:- "Clean-air targets missed as traffic hotspot pollution soars".
Facts about Edinburgh air quality from the Toll Poll campaign.
The Courier has the story about FETA claiming that they are ahead in dealing with the cable corrosion problem because of tolls - "Forth road bridge staff's maintenance work praised".
Tuesday 22nd August
Report that small businesses want the tolls scrapped - Evening News - "Nine out of ten small firms want Forth bridge tolls axed" Courier - "FETA gets blasted over Forth Road Bridge tolls".
The Scotsman has published a letter from John Mackenzie of Scone in response to our letter yesterday -
".. the main piece of evidence in the Forth Estuary Transport Authority's case for keeping tolls on the Forth Road Bridge is modelling, which shows that, without tolls, traffic would increase by up to 21 per cent. I feel £1 is not too much to pay if it helps reduce traffic (which it clearly does, judging by the number of people who seem to take exception to paying it). Most agree that a second crossing is the only long-term solution, and how could this be paid for if not by tolls?"
Channel Four last night had a hour long political broadcast on behalf of the "Anti Roads, Pro Tolls Party" conducted by Bob Kiley the American ex Congestion Charge Czar. He attacked Edinburgh for letting the people have a say. Councillor Andrew Burns told Bob that they were forced into it. Bob also attacked Gordon Brown for stopping the £4 tolls on the Forth bridge, and then went on to interview the bridgemaster. Just as well he doesn't have to stand for election. Herald - "Chancellor berated over failure to help solve transport troubles".
Monday 21st August
The Scotsman published our response to the latest cable corrosion story -
Judging by your report ("Forth Road Bridge toll made main cables corrosion check possible")" (19 August), the advocates of tolls must be getting desperate.
The possibility of a cable corrosion problem on the Forth and similar bridges was identified in 1998 or earlier. The other British bridges that have or may have this problem are also tolled. Being tolled seems to have made no difference to the time taken to deal with this.
The public expect all road bridges to be safe, and road users pay £50 billion a year in taxes, so the authorities are not exactly short of money to maintain them.
Surely it would be better if all Scotland's major road bridges came under the remit of the Executive which is already directly responsible for 3,500 kilometres of roads and road bridges.
Who wants a system where an organisation looks after just one bridge and part of their effort goes into collecting tolls?"
Sunday 20th August
Last night's Evening News had more tolls spin. This time it's the wonderful progress on the A8000. It isn't of course mentioned that it's partly paid for by tolls. Though it's a good laugh to see the authorities crowing about a "fast motorway link to the Forth Road Bridge". Haven't they been telling everyone that the bridge can't cope? Evening News - "New link to bridge is on the right road".
Saturday 19th August
A bumper bundle of stories in the Courier:-
Attack on the tolls from Fife Council, the Tay bridge board and us - "Three-pronged assault on Executive over tolls".
More on the Fife Council position - ""Fairness and equality" must end the charges".
One body still fighting to keep the tolls is FETA though it is far from clear who they are speaking for, as many of the FETA board want the tolls to stop - "Forth tolls should stay, says FETA".
On a different tack the Courier also reports the 40th birthday of the Tay road bridge (and of course 40 years of tolls) - "Tay Bridge passes 40-year milestone".
Meanwhile in the Scotsman we have two bizarre stories -
"Forth Road Bridge toll made main cables corrosion check possible". They say that tolls meant that the problem is being dealt with earlier than if there had been no tolls income. See our response in a letter to the Scotsman published on Monday 21st.
"Politicians 'did not have the guts' to push through congestion charging". Bob Kiley from New York having brought in London's Con charge, is now attacking Edinburgh politicians for "failing". It seems that he may have caused the Lib Dems and Tories to modify their anti tolls position. They should have asked why New York doesn't have a Con charge!
Friday 18th August
This is what we submitted yesterday to the latest Excutive tolls study - submission. This is part of our press release -
Tolls have long been unpopular, causing riots around Britain and leading in Scotland to the abolition of tolls
and similar "exactions" by the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act, 1878. Those views still hold with Edinburgh people last
year rejecting tolls by a margin of three to one - despite a biased question, a costly pro tolls campaign, and
42% of Edinburgh households not having a car.
The Executive claim that tolls have no adverse impact on the local economy, but two studies have been carried out on the Skye
bridge for the Highland Council, and for Clydeside councils on the Erskine bridge. Both studies said that tolls had an adverse
effect; with the Erskine study estimating that abolition of tolls would lead to the creation of 20,000 extra jobs.
The Executive claim that the removal of tolls will cause congestion, but removal of tolls will have the opposite effect particularly during the P.M. peak.
If tolls have all the benefits that are claimed by the Executive, then why are these blessings largely
confined to the people of Fife? Or is the Executive retaining a toll tax on Fife as it wants to keep a "bridgehead" for inflicting
more tolls on Scotland and aiding the Westminster Government's plans for tolls on all roads?"
Thursday 17th August
Confirmation that the Tay Road Bridge Board are asking the Excecutive to scrap the tolls- Courier - "Board lists points for scrapping tolls".
The Courier reports on the progress on the A8000. Pity that it doesn't mention that this "strategic road" is being paid for with bridge tolls - "Work on A8000 bottleneck on time".
The Courier also reports on the difficulty we are having getting the Scottish Executive to reveal what exactly they are telling the tolls consultants to do - "Bid to lift lid on review". Why is the Executive so reluctant to let people know?
Wednesday 16th August
On Monday, Dundee City Council agreed an anti tolls submission to the Executive and today the Tay bridge board is telling the Scottish Executive that it wants tolls scrapped. It has also decided not to waste money on new tolls equipment till a decision is made on the future of tolls - Evening Telegraph - "Board calls for abolition".
Courier reader Bob McWilliam has told them about another Dundee tolls fight - in Oregon - "Same anti-tolls fight -different Dundee". It has not yet been confirmed that there will be tolls and Oregon like another 25 of the 50 states is currently free of any tolls. A better comparison with Tayside may be Buffalo in New York state, which due to broken promises still has tolls. This is part of what Donn Esmonde said in April about Buffalo's tolls fight:-
"It is about more than the money that they take out of our shallow pockets.
It is about more than obliterating a tax that isn't paid elsewhere.
It is about more than making toll barriers disappear.
It is about fighting back.
The toll barriers are symbols. They stand for our sheep-like willingness to accept the unacceptable, to roll over and take it, to believe that we can't change anything - so why bother trying?
Psychologists call this "learned helplessness".
The only way to kill it is by fighting back. By winning."
For some reason the Forth road bridge authority is again warning that the bridge may have to be closed due to cable corrosion:- Courier - "Crossing may close for years" BBC - "Bridge study on cable replacement".
Tuesday 15th August
At the beginning of the month there were reports in various papers (including Courier - see 4th August) that there were "no tolling plans". We eventually found out that this was based on research just published by the Executive - "Long distance commuting in Scotland".
The report suggests that long distance commuting is largely caused by high property prices. The establishment want these commuters to be forced out of cars and on to public transport. Some extracts from the report:-
"9.7. 'Scotland's Transport Future' (2004) indicates that improvement in public transport
provision will have a positive effect in achieving road traffic reduction, but road pricing and
other measures may hold a greater prospect of changing the pattern of road use. However,
the research has shown that the long distance commuter is more likely to consider themselves
to be car dependent than others and so measures aimed to discourage car use may be less
effective in changing the behaviour of this group.
9.19. The most effective measures for influencing choice in favour of public
transport are those which directly increase the cost of the car journey (eg
parking charges and/or limited availability**, and tolls)
** This is political speak for providing an inadequate system, not building new roads, and closing or narrowing existing roads.
9.24. Road pricing is a policy measure which would increase the direct cost of driving
through increased use of tolls and congestion charges. In the context of long distance
commuting, distance based charging schemes could be used to discourage long distance car
commuting. However, charging schemes may be more effective in targeting the short
distance car commuter by combining a significant flat-charge with a distance based charging
scheme (ie similar to the pricing mechanism of a taxi fare)...
9.25. Given the recent 'NO' vote on Edinburgh's proposal for a local congestion charging
scheme and the time and money required to develop a workable 'national' congestion
charging scheme, such schemes are unlikely to be introduced in the near future."
So we know what they want to force on us. The only question is when.
Last night Dundee city councillors agreed the submission opposing the tolls - Courier - "Full backing for call to remove tolls".
Monday 14th August
We are nearly at the 17th August Executive consultation deadline. This is the third tolls consultation (the previous ones were in 2004 and 2005). More details on our main Scotland page.
Dundee City Council is making a submission to the tolls "consultation" on the Two Tolls. It deals with the preposterous claim from the Executive that keeping the tolls reduces congestion and improves air quality.Courier - "Bridge tolls congestion claims refuted by city".
On the 2nd our request for people to respond to the consultation was reported in the Courier as "Fresh calls to scrap "unfair" bridge tolls". We asked people to respond otherwise the Executive will claim that there is "little local concern". Mike Rumney from Fife Council spoke out about the unfair treatment of the Fife area and told the Courier "It is no longer just about the social or economic impacts. It is about fairness and equality for the people of Fife and Dundee and all other Forth and Tay bridge users. We're seeking a level playing field to support the Fife and east of Scotland economy".
Wednesday 9th August
Bob Beveridge from Falkland has this letter in today's Courier:-
"Sir,-Politicians continually blame motorists for excessive vehicle fumes, yet it is incompetent, overpaid politicians who are responsible for the greater part of this problem.
Each day, millions of cars sit in traffic jams for hours with their engines emitting fumes.
Most of these journeys should just take minutes.
Politicians have failed to upgrade road and transport systems.
The increase in traffic volume could have been foreseen years ago.
The road from the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh airport is a disgrace, resulting in daily traffic jams which cause more petrol and diesel to to burned than is necessary.
Of course, if congestion charges and increased taxation are introduced, this won't affect the politicians with their pound-a-mile fuel allowance."
Monday 7th August
Report in tonight's Evening News of the deadline for the latest tolls review consultation:- "Tolls battle rallying call".
Reports on Westminster's latest toll plans Herald - "Tolls to target cars on busiest roads" Scotsman - "MPs call for 70mph limit to be slashed to cut emissions". This seems to get backing from both Tavish the Toll and the SNP (has anyone told Bruce Crawford?). Road user charging law in Scotland is separate from England, so what Dougie Alexander and his pals do may be irrelevant.
Sunday 6th August
A Scottish view on the "letter" leaked in the Sunday Times about planned new UK road pricing law:-Sunday Herald - "Minister calls for national toll policy".
Last Friday's Evening News had a letter "Another Poll Tax is inconceivable" from us:-
"YOU report that Edinburgh Conservative councillors have warned the Executive against adopting a road tolls scheme just for Scotland (News, August 1). After the Poll Tax experience, it seems inconceivable that the other parties would be daft enough to introduce road pricing before the rest of Britain. In any case the possibility of "road pricing" at some distant date was mainly created as an excuse for not spending enough now to improve roads and transport."
Friday 4th August
This morning's Courier has the story about:- "No plans to bring in road tolling". We have been in contact with the Executive, and they don't seem to know where these reports come from!
Thursday 3rd August
It is reported that the Executive have concluded from a study that:-"Road tolls 'not likely soon'". We will bring you details, once something has been released to joe public.
The Courier reports on an inspection by Japanese engineers of the Forth bridge cables - It is again being said that the bridge may be "shut altogether in 2019". The cables on the Severn bridge are believed to be in a slightly worse condition than on the Forth bridge. The report implies that the Severn bridge may also be closed, this is not what the Highways Agency told us:-
"To date we have opened up and investigated the cable at two locations and are currently inspecting at a third and fourth. Three more locations will be inspected to complete the investigations. So far the level of corrosion found has been slightly worse than that found during similar work on the Forth Bridge. We are continuing with the investigation into the condition of the cables and there are no immediate concerns to the travelling public. When the results of the investigations are known and testing complete we will take the appropriate steps to maintain the structure, including repair work if necessary, recognising the importance of minimising disruption to users of this important route. There are no plans at this stage to close the bridge."
Wednesday 2nd August
The Evening News reports that Edinburgh is to introduce Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras around the city. They are used in London to collect the "congestion charge", and it is believed that the Police also use them - "At last, a camera to speed cars up!" (There are plenty of comments at the bottom of the page to show what people think of this idea.) The authorities say that the purpose of the cameras is to see the progress of individual cars, and thus reduce congestion! Will the person who believes this, please board the 4 o'clock moon shuttle, organised by the AA, and leaving from Princes Street Gardens.
Tuesday 1st August
Tonight's Evening News reports that Edinburgh Tories are opposing the suggestion that Scotland introduces "road pricing" - "Council Tories warn against road 'pricing'" Apparently this would be in advance of England - anyone remember the Poll tax?
We reported on the 28th June, that Tom Minogue had made an objection to the planning application for the new Forth tolls plaza. Tom has since had a letter from Edinburgh City Council. The letter says that his objection will be taken into "consideraion", but this seems to be mumbo jumbo, as it also says that it is not material" and "cannot be taken into consideration in the determination of this application".
This tolls monstrosity is now being backed by "Historic Scotland". What a pity that the tolls are not also history.
Tuesday 25th July
Two recent stories:-
Scotsman Thursday 20th - "Severn Bridge state 'vindicates Forth bosses'". The story says that the Forth bridge authority is "vindicated" because the Severn bridge cables are in a worse state. It is apparently correct that Severn bridge cables are "slightly worse" , but we have approached the Highways Agency, and they are not yet talking about traffic restrictions, closures or replacement bridges.
Evening News Saturday 22nd - "Two motorists speeding every 60 seconds on bridge". The story says that drivers are ignoring the temporary speed limits on the A90 approach to the Forth bridge. We assume that the restrictions are neccessary, but it is odd the way the authorities one minute want tolls as they say they reduce congestion, and the next minute are complaining that traffic is too fast.
Monday 24th July
The Scottish Council for Development and Industry have said tolls on the Two bridges should be "abolished immediately" Courier - "Business calls for transport shake-up" Evening News - "Business body joins calls to scrap Forth Bridge tolls".
The Courier published a letter from our Alliance pointing to the money being wasted on new tolls plazas and on consultants and asking "How much more money will be wasted before the tolls are scrapped? Or has someone already decided the people of Fife and Tayside are not going to be freed from the yoke of tolls?"
Thursday 20th July
The Tay Bridge Board have decided to spend nearly £2 million on new tolling equipment:- Courier - "Electronic tolling proposals". So much for the board's decision on the 13th March that they wanted the Executive to scrap the tolls!
Wednesday 19th July
Yesterday's Courier reported that work was starting on the new bridge at Kincardine and says Transport Minister Tavish Scott described it as "world class":- "Work on new Forth bridge under way".
For little more than the £120 million that they are spending they could indeed have had a world class bridge. But the anti road interests have prevailed and the bridge will have a single carriageway. A wider bridge at Kincardine could have done a lot to help ease congestion, particularly when there are restrictions on the bridge at Queensferry due to weather or other causes. Even without the frequently mentioned bridge cable problems, would it not also have been prudent to make sure that the new bridge at Kincardine had more lanes? Official site for the new bridge.
Monday 17th July
The Evening News has surveyed readers on various transport issues, and had over 4,500 responses. On the issue of tolls, it had been claimed by Trolls that Edinburgh people would have said "Yes" to tolls if they were only to cover the city centre. The survey result was than even with this more limited toll it would have been rejected two to one. Report on Friday:- "One toll zone would still be voted down"
Friday 14th July
Today's Courier has a letter from Peter Finnie of Dunino:-
"Sir, In the past Labour has tried to bury bad news during busy news times. Now they seem to have adopted a new strategy - burying good news when they and their Lib Dem partners are on holiday. I speak of course of Labour's conversion to scrapping the tolls.
I'm sure Fifers will welcome Jack McConnell's late conversion, however the timing is conspicuous. It will allow the initial furore in the press to dissipate because the Scottish Parliament is in recess. It also wrong-foots their Lib Dem "partners" who, having recently actually voted to retain the tolls, are now look increasingly isolated.
Fife Lib Dem MSPs must now surely bow to Fife public opinion and The Courier's campaign and scrap the tolls-even if it means agreeing with Labour Executive policy."
Thursday 13th July
On our main Scotland page, we have added part of one person's response to Bruce Crawfords's tolls consultation:- Current Scottish Tolls consultations open to public
Wednesday 12th July
The Shetland News reports that Northern Isles MP and Lib Dem transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael is backing road user pricing. He says that this will benefit drivers in Orkney and Shetland.
The reality is that road pricing is the equivalent of adding 20 pence to the cost of a litre of petrol - just to cover the cost of administration. This will hit all Scottish drivers - is that Alistair's intention?
Thursday 6th July
This week's Dunfermline Free Press says that "Ends's in sight for bridge tolls".
SUPPORT for keeping tolls on the Forth Road Bridge is evaporating with all the major parties edging towards axing the charges.
And by next May's Scottish elections, there is a real possibility that all the main players will be advocating abolition, signalling an end to charges 43 years after the bridge was opened.
Since the Dunfermline by-election in February, the bandwagon for scrapping tolls has gathered momentum - and manifesto commitments for next year's vote could finish them off.
Ironically, the increasing threat to tolls comes as work continues on building the controversial £5 million booths 'plaza'.
... With the SNP already in favour of axing tolls, Labour and coalition partners the Lib Dems are thought to be distrustful of each other stealing a march on the issue.
Each fears being left in an exposed position electorally as sole defenders of tolling, which would be political suicide in West Fife ahead of the Holyrood and council elections.
The tolls issue played a prominent part in the by-election and since Labour's disastrous defeat, the party's MSPs and councillors in the Kingdom have been calling for the Scottish Executive to scrap bridge charges.
The campaign gathered further support when tolls were axed on the Erskine Bridge, leaving the Forth and Tay road bridges as the only ones in Scotland where charging continued.
Labour activists are concerned that transport minister Tavish Scott, currently undertaking another tolls review, will announce they are to go, allowing his party, the Lib Dems, to take the credit and benefit at the polls.
... Dunfermline East Labour MSP Helen Eadie said she would have welcomed Mr McConnell's support but added it would be a party-wide decision. "I'll be working like a dog on this and am sending out hundreds of letters across Scotland.". She criticised Tavish Scott for continuing to sit on the fence and for the "deception" of the Lib Dems over tolling.
... Fife Labour MSPs made a submission to the party's policy forum which will decide the manifesto.
It stated, "Retaining tolls on both of the bridges means that Fifers in particular are penalised from travelling to and from work" and added, "There is also an economic disincentive for new businesses to be attracted to Fife or for existing businesses to be retained."
It concluded, "In order to achieve a consistency throughout Scotland and in particular to ensure a basic fairness for Fife, we would ask that the Scottish Policy Forum agree that tolls be removed from both the Forth and Tay Bridges and that this policy commitment be included in the Scottish Labour Party's manifesto for the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections."
The Lib Dems also face a headache because their party is in favour of environmentally-friendly, anti-congestion policies and scrapping tolls would fly in the face of this.
Dunfermline Lib Dem councillor and Feta member Tony Martin is a long-term supporter of tolls being retained but says he may have to reconsider this in the light of other parties changing their position.
He said the Lib Dems and Labour were suspicious of each other and this could lead to both adopting a policy of abolishing tolls. "I think tolls will again be a huge issue in next year's elections. Politics is the art of the possible. I don't want to be left as the only politician in West Fife supporting the retention of tolls...." ... Mr Martin also feels there is little point in Feta continuing following the collapse of its strategy which would have included the infamous £4 tolls. "It's discredited in the eyes of the public and you have to wonder why it's still there."
Tuesday 4th July
R Alder from Dalegety Bay has a letter in this morning's Courier. They have a low opinion of FETA and say it:-
"should not be given the responsibility of looking after the traffic needs of the area. It was obvious years ago that another bridge would be needed due to the increase in traffic crossing the Forth. For how long has the A8000 been seriously congested? Excuses about congestion in Edinburgh are absolute rubbish as most of the traffic does not go that way! .. The Scottish Parliament throws money in all directions except the Forth Road Bridge. Users of the bridge have to pay towards the cost of all the approach roads and the provision of toll collecting booths and collecting systems which are subject to strong and justified demands for abolition. All other bridges in Scotland, except the Tay Road Bridge, are toll-free despite the cost to the Executive."
Monday 3rd July
The Herald has a report where Jack McConnell denies yesterday's report that he plans to remove the two tolls:- "McConnell denies manifesto plans to scrap tolls". A spokesman for the First Minister says "The £15m income from the Forth and Tay was needed to fund other projects.". What a sick joke. The Executive has a budget of £26.5 billion, and it was reported last week that in the financial year which ended on the 31st March, they underspent by £235 million. Tom McCabe, the Finance Minister, boasted that this was the lowest unsderspend ever. He also said that Scotland was to get another £800 million from Gordon Brown that had been held in reserve.
The Courier has a letter from us asking Helen Eadie will she now support Bruce Crawford's Members' Bill.
Sunday 2nd July
According to Jack Allardyce in today's Sunday Times, Jack McConnell is planning that Labour will promise to remove the two tolls after the next election. Good news if true, but why are they clinging on to them now, if they really plan to remove them? "Labour U-turn: we will axe bridge tolls".
Saturday 1st July
Two recent reports in the Scotsman, who avoid mentioning the tolls issue:-
Today they report on lorries trying to cross the bridge when there are high winds, and the delays caused when they are turned round at the toll booths:- "Lorry drivers flout bridge warnings".
On Thursday they reported that the old toll booths are going to be used at Knockhill:- "Forth bridge toll booths head for a racy new life". When they do scrap the tolls, what use will they find for their new £5 million booths?
Friday 30th June
The Scottish Executive has just published a survey that it commissioned on why the people of Edinburgh voted against the Toll or "Road user charging" as they call it:- "Evaluation of Edinburgh Residents' Attitudes to the Proposed Road User Charging Scheme". It seems that people didn't fully understand it, but were against it in principle anyway.
The Executive are living in a fantasy world, everyone knows that the Poll was biased in favour of tolls and that the council did all they could to fool the people into voting yes. Despite this the Executive conclusion is "Given scepticism among Edinburgh residents and legal constraints on providing information in the run up to the referendum, perhaps the City of Edinburgh Council was not best placed to inform residents of a congestion charge for the city." What have they in mind next time, bringing back Joseph Goebbels?.
Helen Eadie MSP for Dunfermline East was putting forward a Member's Bill to abolish the two tolls. Though it is only this week that her Bill consultation document has appeared on the Parliament web site, she has now abandoned it as she thinks she will not have enough time:- Courier - "Bid to scrap tolls runs out of time".
Helen says there is not enough time before next May's elections. Strange, as her consultation document for the Bill has only appeared on the Parliament website this last week. Will she now support Bruce Crawford's Members' Bill which was lodged on the 9th May? The people of Fife and Tayside will prefer something now, rather than rely on any promises as to what may happen after the election.
Wednesday 28th June
Tom Minogue has put in an objection to FETA's planning application for the new tolls plaza. He says that FETA is not a legal entity in that it was not properly constituted in accordance with Scottish Parliamentary procedures:- Courier - "Protest lodged over bridge toll plaza".
Tuesday 27th June
FETA applied in August 2004 to "Erect canopy over toll booths at south side of Forth Road Bridge". That was approved by Edinburgh Council in September 2004. In the event FETA are not erecting a canopy, but are building a whole new tolls plaza about 50 feet away. They have now (14th June) made a new application which they are describing as "To erect a canopy over the new toll booths and toll plaza at the south side of the forth road bridge". You can see the application and comment on it at:- Edinburgh City Council.
Monday 26th June
FETA claim that the tolls plaza is not being built in the wrong place, and that there was never any suggestion that tolls would be removed, and that it's all the fault of Europe:- Courier - "No plans to tear down tolls plaza".
After just telling us the bridge may have to close, they are trying to justify the new £5 million tolls plaza! They say that they may be exempt from planning law and that anyway the plaza has not been built in the wrong place. If so then why are they submitting a retrospective planning application?
FETA's answer to why they approved the £5 million when tolling was being reviewed is that "At the time there was no suggestion that tolls were coming off the Forth Road Bridge". FETA must have been on another planet, if they were unaware of the tolls review or that the legal power for tolling was due to end on the 31st March 2006. How could FETA be so confident that the Executive would ignore the Councils, MSPs and others who were opposed to tolls?
Saturday 24th June
We are back to the Forth bridge falling down again:- Courier - "Mounting fears over road bridge".
If FETA want another bridge, perhaps they can tell us why they accepted that the new bridge being built at Kincardine would be a Mickey Mouse bridge. It is generally agreed that "the bridge will become a bottleneck within a very short length of time". A bigger bridge at Kincardine could have done a lot to help ease congestion, particularly when there are restrictions on the bridge at Queensferry due to weather or other causes. Even without possible cable problems, it would also have been prudent to make sure that the new bridge at Kincardine could take as much traffic as possible.
Friday 23rd June
No news today, so here is one that we skipped. Last Saturday the Evening News had a story about the £65 million Forth bridge paint job being put back. It will not now start till 2010, and will finish in 2021:- "Bridge paint job delayed until 2010".
Sometimes we think we have fallen through the looking glass - £65 million to paint the bridge, and they are planning to do this though they are still issuing stories about the bridge being permanently closed to traffic due to cable corrosion - are they planning that it will be used by cyclists and camel riders?
Thursday 22nd June
The Dunfermline Free Press reports on the "Toll booths built in wrong place":-
"BUNGLING roads chiefs have built the Forth Road Bridge's controversial new tolling 'plaza' in the wrong place, it has emerged.
Now the £5 million structure faces being pulled down without ever collecting a toll, if angry local residents have their way.
... The towering structure has been erected 15 metres south of the position previously approved by Edinburgh Council and those living nearby complain it has spoiled their river views. Residents have asked West Fifers to join them in their bid to have the new booths removed.
... Even before this latest development, critics had slammed the millions spent as a waste of money, coming at a time when the whole issue of tolls is under review. Politicians of all the main parties are calling for tolls on the Forth crossing to be abolished in line with the Erskine and Skye bridges. And the future of the bridge itself is in doubt because of structural defects, as was made clear last week by bridgemaster Alastair Andrew.
... Local resident Gillian Mitchell first raised the matter with the council after spotting the variation from the original plans.
"They've done it because it makes it easier for them to carry on with the old booths operating while the new ones were being built. The new ones were supposed to be built on the same spot as the current ones. When we first raised this, FETA argued that it didn't need planning permission. That's the case for work on the bridge but this isn't on the bridge. They were told they did need permission.
FETA have known about this from the beginning of March but didn't stop the work to find out if they would get the planning permission. They kept working through the night, spending public money on booths they knew were in the wrong place.
We can't believe they've been able to get away with building this when the whole debate on tolls has been going on. We're always being told that the bridge won't last long so why waste £5 million in public money on these tolling booths which will still be standing when the bridge is shut? There will be around 30 objections from people on this estate and I hope people in Fife will also take the chance to let FETA and Edinburgh Council know what they think about this."
FETA have said that there should be no more weekend delays on the Forth bridge - for the next 2 months, anyway.
Wednesday 21st June
Some letters over last week:-
Scotsman 12th June, from Tony Box of Edinburgh " It is a national disgrace that vehicles are being delayed by more than 45 minutes in trying to cross the Forth Road Bridge northbound, due to lack of toll collection facilities. If the Forth Estuary Transport Authority cannot collect tolls efficiently, it should stop collecting them and let the traffic flow."
Scotsman 14th June, from John Madden of Dunfermline "I agree with Tony Box that tolls should be suspended on the Forth Road Bridge for so long as the Fife Estuary Transport Authority fails to collect them with any efficiency. The disruption caused by the closure of toll booths reinforces my view that FETA's main aim is to create havoc. The bridge master's job is to ensure the maximum number of vehicles cross the bridge in as short a time as possible, not the exact opposite."
Scotsman 19th June, from Tom Minogue and Bob Taylor of Glenrothes, together with a few comments:- "New bridge campaign".
Evening News 19th June, from Tom Minogue :- "YOUR article on the tollbooths at the Forth Road Bridge being built in the wrong position (News, June 13) comes as no surprise to anyone who has observed FETA's actions at close hand. The bigger surprise is why FETA took a £5million gamble in going ahead with the new electronic tollbooth system when the remaining tolling regimes in Scotland were, and still are under review by the Executive.
A visitor from Mars might be forgiven for thinking that FETA is trying to maximise delay, disruption and pollution that is caused by the tollbooth construction work so as to make the case for a new bridge. Surely not!"
Monday 19th June
Traffic on the Tay Road bridge in the year to March was down on the year before. This was revealed at a meeting of the Tay bridge board which also discussed the latest "review" of tolls by the Executive. This was apparently greeted with "a concerted committee raspberry". Lord Provost John Letford, said "It was difficult to desist making derisory comments, but farce sprang to mind." Evening Telegraph - "Fewer cars use bridge".
Friday 16th June
Today the Courier has the story about the toll plaza being built in the wrong place. FETA say that their plans were only "conceptual drawings":- "Shadows loom over wrong-site toll plaza '".
The Courier has a letter from Peter Gibson of Springfield suggesting a novel way for funding the upkeep of Tay bridge "... The River Tay has a good tidal flow, so why not install wave energy machines between each of the pillars of the bridge, apart from the navigation spans, and use this as a test bed for wave energy? The energy created could be sold to the power companies."
Thursday 15th June
Two recent surveys say that Edinburgh has less congestion than most British cities, and is one of the most car friendly. Given the council's war against drivers, we wonder if these surveys were carried out in another dimension:- Evening News - "Edinburgh 'one of UK's most car friendly cities'".
Wednesday 14th June
FETA are demanding that the Executive immediately approve building a new bridge:- Courier - "Start new bridge now or face catastrophe".
Tuesday 13th June
The Forth bridge authority's massive new unwanted toll plaza is being built in a different place to the one that they were granted planning permission for. Residents have objected but no doubt will be ignored:- Evening News - "Bridge booths face bulldozer as new location takes its toll".
The Courier published our repeated question to FETA - why did they spend £5 million on new tolls plaza, if tolls were under review? "How could FETA have been so sure about tolls?".
Monday 12th June
Angus Council has confirmed its opposition to the Two tolls:- Courier - "Council's "no tolls" message to Executive".
Saturday 10th June
Three from yesterday's Courier:-
Shona Robison has asked the Minister whether he will remove the tolls if that is what the latest review recommends. His reply was that they would think about it:- "No promise made on tolls outcome".
Report on start of work on the new bridge at Kincardine:- "Start made to third Forth bridge".
The Transport Minister says it is a "world class project", the reality is somewhat different. All but the greens will welcome the new bridge, but it is inadequate. Bill Woolsey, interviewed on Thursday on the BBC said "Local people would like to see a larger bridge. The bridge will become a bottleneck within a very short length of time."
A bigger bridge could have done a lot to help ease congestion, particularly when there are restrictions on the main Forth road bridge due to weather or other causes. But more importantly the authorities have said that the Forth road bridge may have to be closed at some stage to either lorries or all traffic due to cable corrosion. We don't believe such a closure is likely, but it would have been prudent to make sure that the new bridge at Kincardine could take as much traffic as possible in case the Forth bridge is forced to close for any reason. Instead we have just a token bridge with a single carriageway. We hope that East Scotland does not regret the missed opportunity to build a wider bridge."
There was a letter from FETA about our letter asking whether FETA knew that the tolls review process was a sham when they went ahead with the £5 million scheme for new tolls equipment or did they take a gamble.
The reply from FETA was that it was justified because 1) the toll plaza "wasn't up to scratch for those who work there", 2) "electronic tolling is cheaper" and 3) it had been set up in 2002 "to move from a toll to a road user charge". But all this misses the point.
A review of all Scotland's tolls was announced in May 2003, and there was a first round of consultations in summer 2004. Yet at the end of October 2004, FETA decided to spend £5 million, partly apparently to save money. Even without the review, the tolls on the bridge were due to stop on the 31st March 2006. How were FETA so sure that there would still be tolls when their £5 million tolls plaza opens?
Thursday 8th June
Bruce Crawford has thrown down a challenge to Helen Eadie and other MSPs. He wants them to back his Bill to abolish the tolls, and volunteers that if they introduce a similar bill, then he will back theirs and withdraw his:- Courier - "MSP issues tolls bill challenge to rivals".
Work is starting on the new bridge at Kincardine. This is welcome, but the new bridge is totally inadequate:- BBC - "Second road bridge work begins".
Wednesday 7th June
Citroen have done a review of congestion in various British cities. In our opinion it was not scienfific and just another publicity gimmick. But for what it's worth, Edinburgh, the city that the authorities tried to con into the Con charge, was rated most congestion free:- Evening News - "Shorter rush-hour jams make city commute best in Britain".
Tuesday 6th June
The Courier has a letter from us on the spending on tolls equipment, and addresses for submissions by individuals and organisations to the latest tolls review:- (first letter).
Monday 5th June
On Saturday, the Courier reported on "progress" on the toll booths on the Forth bridge:- "Forth tolls work is on schedule".Strange that no one seems to be worried that £5 million is being spent on new toll equipment when the tolls are yet again under review.
Last week we drew the attention of MSPs to some of the issues with the A8000 scheme which is being partly financed from bridge tolls:- A8000 scheme.
Wednesday 31st May
Bruce Crawford MSP yesterday tried to get the Transport Committee not to delay his Private Member's Bill abolishing the Two Tolls. The 5 Labour and Lib Dem MSPs again kicked this out of sight. Those voting not to delay the Bill were Maureen Watt and Fergus Ewing from the SNP, Tommy Sheridan from the SSP and Conservative David McLetchie:- "MSPs halt new bid to end bridge tolls".
Thursday 25th May
Edinburgh have appointed a new man to boss the tram scheme. According to tonight's Evening News he is to commute from Essex. The paper doesn't say whether he will use a cycle.
Wednesday 24th May
The Freight Transport Association have had a letter in various papers backing more tolls on more roads. This is our response as published in tonight's Evening News:- "Proposals will waste money".
Friday 19th May
More criticism in the Courier following Wednesday's announcement:- "Review branded a waste by FSB". "Tolls decision criticised by Tricia Marwick"
Thursday 18th May
There is a report in the Courier of the angry reaction of MSPs following yesterday's announcement that that the Scottish Executive have appointed a consultant to look at the Two Tolls:- "No scrapping of bridge tolls for at least a year".
It is now clear that this announcement is as useful as saying that it is expected that there may be some snow next winter. It is just a delaying tactic that would not fool a four year old:- Executive Press Release.
The Courier reports that work started yesterday on the main part of the new A8000. :- "Bridging gap that was the A8000
". Tavish the Toll apparently said:- "I am pleased to see construction start on this vital link to the national transport network. This has been a bottleneck for too long." No doubt he is even more pleased that the scheme is being paid for from Forth bridge tolls.
Wednesday 17th May
It was announced today that the Scottish Executive have appointed a consultant to look at the Two Tolls. Various MSPs have accused Tavish the Toll of delaying tactics:- BBC - "Consultants review bridge tolls".
Monday 15th May
R Haynes from Kennoway in this morning's Courier warns the Emperor Ming about Lib Dems support for tolls:-
"I wrote a letter to Sir Menzies Campbell letting him know how I felt about his party stopping the scrapping of the tolls on the Forth Bridge and putting an extra tax on the east of Scotland.
I received a reply informing me there were issues involved which needed to be addressed and giving a rather patronising view, as if it was a complex matter.
Having travelled to Edinburgh Airport on the last two Saturdays it was apparent that the long tailback was caused by the toll booths and if he cannot see this after two inquiries he should not be in his job. Perhaps an electoral defeat will help them listen to the people more closely in the future."
Saturday 13th May
The Scottish Executive is consulting on Freedom of Information. The Evening News reports that Edinburgh City Council want to make the process harder - They are preaching to the converted! Despite the FoI laws, the authorities still succeed in keeping the full truth from the people. If the laws are eased, then it will be even easier for them to keep their secrets.
Thursday 11th May
The Evening Times reports that the toll booths from the Erskine Bridge are for sale:- "Now they're queuing to buy bridge toll booths". Does this mean that we are safe from more tolls? Probably not, as the troll hogs will have in mind new electronic ways of taxing and tagging us.
Wednesday 10th May
The Edinburgh Traffic Forum was formed by some of the people who campaigned against the Edinburgh tolls. They are holding their annual general meeting next Tuesday, 16th May, at 7.30pm in Davidson's Mains Parish Church Hall, Quality Street.
Another scare story on the Forth road bridge. Yesterday Tavish the Toll was asked by MSPs whether there was a risk the the bridge might have to be closed to HGVs before any new bridge might be built. He replied - yes:- The Courier - "HGVs facing Forth bridge ban" . What isn't clear is what this risk is compared with say the chances of Little Green Men from Mars invading Fife.
The Courier has a letter from Andrew Gilmour from Leven about Lib Dem hypocrisy on the future of tolls.
Monday 8th May
The Evening News reports that Councillor Anderson is complaining about the cost of public inquiries and he says "when you take the Forth Road Bridge tolls inquiry for example, a single complaint cost millions to process.".
We wonder how he worked out that a simple Inquiry cost millions. The toll increase was in any case completely unjustified, and if more people had known what the authorities were doing, there would have been no need for an Inquiry, as the politicians would have had to withdraw their demand.
Tomorrow, Bruce Crawford MSP is hoping to be able to fast track his Private Members Bill scrapping the two tolls:- The Courier - "Private Bill bid to have tolls scrapped" BBC - "New move to abolish bridge tolls".
Sunday 7th May
Tomorrow "Transform Scotland" have organised a conference in Edinburgh on "Facing the Flood". They are trying to pressure the authorities into bringing tolls to Edinburgh and road pricing throughout Scotland. The odd thing is that it seems that the organisation is partly financed by and composed of the authorities including Edinburgh City Council!
Sandra Dick in her column in last night's Evening News mentions the Cockburn Association's revived campaign to force tolls onto Edinburgh. She says "Perhaps they should take another look at that man again, Donald Anderson, and his controversial city traffic management scheme. After all, that was one load of bollards which certainly proved effective when it came to halting the flow of the New Town traffic once and for all."
Friday 5th May
This morning's Scotsman has the story on the A8000 scheme:- "Lib Dems deny road charges 'hypocrisy'".
As do some of last night's papers, including:- Evening Telegraph - "Tell the Truth".
We mainly mention stories in the Courier, but the issue is not being ignored by other papers. Last week, the Dunfermline Press had a letter from Tom Minogue. He responded to the suggestion from Councillor Martin that tolls are needed to manage traffic going onto the bridge. Tom suggests that if needed there are other possible systems including traffic lights!
Thursday 4th May
Steve Bargeton reveals (at least part) of what has been going on with the A8000 scheme and the plans for congestion charging on the Forth bridge:- "Lib Dem Forth tolls 'hypocrisy' revealed".
Wednesday 3rd May
Steve Bargeton reports that the Executive are stonewalling attempts to find out what they are (or ar not) doing with the new Tolls review:- "Executive attacked amid tolls "limbo"".
Courier readers support their Scrap Tolls campaign:- "Readers stick with bridges campaign".
The Scotsman reports on possible rises in licence fees and says "The Executive has pushed for road tolls to replace car tax discs but Scottish ministers have said they are being held back by a more cautious approach taken in Westminster.". Perhaps this shows that they are not as daft at Westminster as they are at Holyrood. Vehicle licences are needed for all sorts of reasons - not least of which is that if you plan to have tolls on all roads, you need to know who to chase for payment!
Tuesday 2nd May
Tolls should not only be kept on the two bridges, but should be reintroduced on the Erskine and Skye bridges according to a letter in this morning's Courier:- 2nd letter "Not cost effective".
Monday 1st May
It is almost beyond belief but the anti roads lobby wants to have another go at forcing a Con charge on Edinburgh:- Evening News - "Heritage group puts tolls back on agenda". The Editor seems to agree, but ominously then suggests that "the solution could perhaps lie in a more localised scheme built around a tight central cordon" Evening News - Opinion
That some of the Edinburgh establishment still hanker after tolls is not surprising, as no doubt the idea is to force less well off drivers off the road. But we are amazed that the Evening News partly agrees. Have they forgotten that the people of Edinburgh rejected tolls despite the Council and others spending millions of public money on trying to sell the idea?
Reducing the area affected would reduce the damage. But city centre retail and restaurant business would still be hit and all the toll income would still be wasted in the cost of collecting it (the London charge costs just over £4 a day per vehicle to collect). There would also still be traffic trying to avoid the toll cordon by detouring down unsuitable streets, as Edinburgh, unlike London, does not have an Inner Ring Road as the toll boundary.
One letter this morning in the Courier. It is our response to the letter last Tuesday from a Fife councillor:- second letter - "Opposed tolls fight motion".
Friday 28th April
- The Courier reports that Tavish the Toll was yesterday asked by MSPs about what was happening with his latest review of tolls - the answer is nothing:- "Executive silent on latest tolls review".
- No tolls letters today, just one from Bill in Cupar about high fuel. He starts "Where is the outcry from our local MPs about the increased price of fuel and how it is affecting the electorate in Fife? Why are they not calling for a lowering of fuel duty to ease the burden on their electorate?"
Thursday 27th April
Alan Roden in the Evening News reports that Ken Livingstone says that Edinburgh's Toll plan was flawed - they should only have gone for a toll on the city centre:- "Road tolls: now you tell us".
Reducing the area affected would have reduced the damage. But:- all the toll would still have been wasted in the cost of collecting it, city centre business would still have been damaged, and Edinburgh, unlike London, does not have an Inner Ring Road, so traffic trying to avoid the toll will still have detoured down unsuitable streets. Let's hope that the Edinburgh Trolls are not so stupid that they will try and resurrect their Toll plans.
Another pro tolls letter in this morning's Courier:- 2nd letter - "Better use for space".
- The writer says that the Courier should scrap the "Scrap the tolls" campaign and instead "promote an awareness of how emissions from car use impact on the local and global environment".
Tuesday 25th April
Only one letter in this morning's Courier:- "Time's right for toll-free bridges experiment".
- The letter is from one of the Lib Dem Fife councillors. She says "I do not believe that tolls should ever have been levied upon bridges". Strange then that when there was a motion in March that Fife council should campaign for the removal of both the tolls, she was one of the councillors who opposed it. Fife Council 2 March 2006 (pdf file).
Monday 24th April
Two letters in this morning's Courier:- 3rd & 4th letters.
- The letter from Tom Minogue is in reply to the letter on Friday from someone worried about the lost tolls income. Tom says:- "The Forth Bridge collects £12 million and the Tay Bridge about £4 million annually. The Chancellor spends on roads only a fraction of what he collects in taxes from motorists. The rest goes on other things such as healthcare, which is important, and war, which is not. So what if the Chancellor simply ordered one Apache attack helicopter less (£12 million) and one tonne of cluster bombs less (£4 million)? Might this allow him to abolish tolls as he promised to do in 1985?"
- The other is from Tom Black of Dundee. He is writing again about the promises that the bridges would form part of an east coast link between Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh. In 1963 Provost McManus said "It might be that in 15 years, the Tay road bridge could be free and it would open up the east of Scotland.". Well they seem to be about 28 years behind!
Sunday 23rd April
Jenny Hjul in the Sunday Times comments on Tavish the Toll's new Transport plans: "All these transport policies go nowhere".
Muriel Gray in the Sunday Herald says that we need better roads and "that silly notions of drivers paying tolls to fund any upgrading will result in the very opposite result, that of severe economic loss to the very people these road improvements are designed to help""Modern roads links to northern Scotland are an urgent necessity".
Last night's Evening News reported that Alistair Darling was in Edinburgh attacking Tories and Lib Dems for their claims to be green. He particularly attacked the Lib Dems telling his audience that "they had to beware of the Liberal Democrats and their remarkable ability to say anything in any part of the country to get support. You see that with the congestion charge in Edinburgh - they stood up in the Commons, at their conference, and they said not only was it a good idea, but it was their idea. Then, in Edinburgh - the only place in Britain where the matter was put to the test - they were there with the Trots and the Tories and they were against it."
Saturday 22nd April
David Chalmers, from the Federation of Small Businesses says in this morning's Courier that there is no need for another review of tolls - they "should be abolished forthwith, and plans for a second crossing put in hand now" - "Further tolls talks condemned".
There are also 2 letters in the paper:- Courier.
Iain Duncan of Dundee says that he is surprised that politicians havn't stressed the economic benefits of removing tolls, and ends - "I can only think that there must be other political pressures at play, of which the general public are unaware, for politicians to be adopting such an incomprehensible and inconsistent stance on the issue of bridge tolls on the Forth and Tay."
The other letter is from John McGoldrick of our alliance. He asks "Now that it is even clearer that the minister has no intention of ever removing the tolls, what will the MSPs do?"
Friday 21st April
This morning's Courier covers yesterday's Transport plan from Tavish, but does not mention his support for tolls. It does however report on an exchange at Holyrood where some of the MSPs tried to press Tavish on when his latest Tolls review would be completed:- "No date given for results of review".
There is also another letter from someone who doesn't want the tolls removed as it will threaten his state pension and the health service. The Trolls must be laughing when they see how well they have so misinformed the people. The two tolls raise less than £16 million between them. The Scottish Executive spend £39 billion a year. Gordon Brown is of course responsible for state pensions, and he has £450 billion of taxes to play with.
The Herald didn't publish the letter that we sent yesterday, though they did publish some comments from people who opposed plans for more tolls. Strangely one was from a person who sometime ago contacted us and said that he supports the principal of tolls. Perhaps it depends where the tolls are.
Thursday 20th April
There are reports in tonight's Evening News on the Executive's wish to see more tolls. Tavish the Toll (otherwise known as the Transport Minister) says "If we are taking a long-term perspective, then the cost of motoring needs to reflect how much you use your car." We thought that was what fuel duty did! But then Tavish may know little about cars, as he probably does all his travelling in Green transport - jet planes, ministerial cars, and taxis.
There is a report in this morning's Dunfermline Press on the £5 million or more that the authorities are wasting on new toll booths for the Forth road bridge:- "Stop work on toll plaza, Feta urged". The Lib Dem councillor who seems to be Fife's biggest (only?) supporter of tolls, says - "there has to be a traffic management system in place to help filter the traffic from five lanes to two. It would also be needed in cases where traffic had to be stopped from going on to the bridge." We wonder how they manage on the 101 other bridges in Scotland that don't have the advantage of toll booths!
The Public Petitions cttee of MSPs met yesterday "Ministers' toll views sought". They "considered" our petition (signed by over 1,600 people) calling for the removal of all tolls. They had already refused us permission to speak. The Committee decided to pass copies of the petition to the Minister for Transport and the First Minister and to await the outcome of the review on the impact and cost of retaining or removing tolls from the Tay and Forth bridges.
George Campbell, who was the principal petitioner, said "The MSPs have just tried to kick the ball out of play. They were presumably worried about what anti toll campaigners would say. Our worry is that the Executive and MSPs want to bury this issue. But we can assure them that the people of Fife and Tayside are not going to forget that they are now the only ones who have to suffer from a tolls regime."
This morning Tavish Scott and the Executive have unveiled their "National Transport Strategy" Consultation document. It is suggested that if there are to be any road improvements, such as the A9 upgrade, then it could be financed from tolls. BBC - "Consultation over transport plans" The Herald - "Drivers told: pay tolls to speed up key road projects" The Herald editorial -"Bold thinking ahead".
Naturally our views on tolls are not mentioned and the Herald editorial backs tolls. This is the letter that we have sent them:-
"We are horrified that the Executive who are supposed to be reviewing the future of the last two hated tolls in Scotland are now thinking of having more.
They say this will get the roads built quicker, but roads users in Scotland are already paying £4 billion in taxes, with little of it going back into the roads.
The Minister has also said that other road taxes would be reduced so that the overall costs to motorists did not rise. The Minister and the Executive need some lessons in economics, as if the overall burden does not rise, then they will have less money because of the cost of collecting the tolls. The London "Congestion" charge, for instance, costs over £4 to collect for each vehicle.
We are also horrified that your paper seems to endorse this policy and says that otherwise we will have "hell on a gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting, motorised handcart". If you are so concerned about this, then perhaps you can explain why you apparently want to move away from a tax that is directly proportionate to fuel consumption, i.e. fuel duty, to a tax which according to the Westminster Government estimate could cost up to £62 billion to implement?"
Wednesday 19th April
The toll collectors on the Tay bridge say let's scrap the Courier:- "Cheeky reply from toll collectors
The Courier also has a couple of letters.
The first letter writer wants the Tay bridge tolls kept to ensure "that the current roads and pavements budget was not effected by bridge maintenance costs-and provide employment for current staff." They also suggest electronic tolls to reduce congestion caused by queuing at the toll booths. Presumably the staff would be there to keep a watchful eye on the automatic machines.
The second letter is from Frank Kenneth of Dundee. He refers to the claims that tolls are needed to make sure that the bridges are maintained and says:- "But perhaps the hidden danger is that maintenance has ceased on these other toll-free bridges and the unfortunate users are unknowingly placing themselves in jeopardy."
Tuesday 18th April
The BBC and some of this morning's papers report a new study which seems to throw a dampener on the Government's plans for tolls on all roads. That is unless you read the Scotsman, where the same study is reported as being in favour of tolls:- "Road charges could cut city traffic by 30%". Here is a letter that we sent to them:-
" It was suggested that city traffic could be cut by one third, and that the average driver in Scotland would pay an extra £2 a week.
This is similar to some of the claims that were made during the Edinburgh Toll Poll campaign.
The Westminster Government's own estimate of the implementation cost of road pricing is up to £62 billion. If allowance is made for running costs, it works out at about £10 billion a year. This is the equivalent of adding 20 pence to the cost of a litre of fuel - just to cover the collection cost.
If the extra cost was really "only" £2 a week. How many drivers would that deter, if they are not already put off by the already highly taxed cost of driving? The London Congestion Charge is £8 a day, and not even Ken Livingstone would claim that traffic within the tolled zone has reduced by a third.
Drivers do not want more road tolls, and they are not going to be fooled. The sooner this is realised at Holyrood and Westminster, the sooner we may get some measures that will reduce congestion without wasting billions on trying to force poorer drivers off the roads."
Monday 17th April
The Courier printed the spin from FETA to account for fall in Forth traffic. Unfortunately they didn't print our statement!
The Courier also has a letter from Councillor Margaret Taylor from Tayport. She says:- "I notice that the SNP in Angus are now joining the call for the removal of tolls on the Tay bridge. I welcome this change of attitude after years when their representatives on the bridge board said not a word about tolls whenever Councillor Arbuckle and I raised the issue. As the only member of the bridge board who regularly uses the bridge, I want to see the tolls removed."
The councillor goes on to say that though she wants the tolls removed she also wants to "ensure that we will be able to continue to safely use the bridge". What a strange comment. Does this mean that bridges without a toll are not safe?
Saturday 15th April
Story from Aileen Robertson on the new tolls on the Forth bridge:- Courier - "Windscreen tolls 'waste of money'".
Friday 14th April
Forth Bridge Traffic numbers fell in March:- BBC - "Bridge traffic drops to new low" Evening News - "50,000 fewer drivers crossing Forth road bridge".
The figure for March was 953 thousand (northbound) compared with 1,026 thousand a year before, but 32 thousand of the drop is because traffic was not counted on the 28th due to the strike. The real points though are: a) traffic figures have been fairly static over last 2 years, and b) traffic fifgures are irrelevant to the tolling issue.
FETA, the Forth bridge board are meeting on the 28th April to discuss among other issues the cable corrosion:- Courier - "Bridge's cables may be replaced".They seem to blow hot and cold as to whether the bridge is falling down or not. Though the report commissioned by the Executive said that corrosion was only of serious concern "if left unchecked".
Tom Black from Dundee has a letter in the Courier about the Tay bridge:-
"The Tay Road Bridge was intended to give the east coast a fast lane to the south and the people of north-east Scotland thought it was only a matter of a few years until Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh would be linked by motorway. Some hope!
As for the bridge itself, one might have thought, with the history of the failed rail bridge, that it would have been built to the highest-possible specifications. Instead, one major defect after another has dogged bridge users..... Could the Scottish Executive hold someone to account?
Thursday 13th April
Two letters in the Courier (3rd and 4th letters). One letter "Highway Robbery" is from George Campbell, a veteran campaigner against the Forth bridge tolls. He answers the letter on Tuesday which asked where would the burden fall if tolls went.
The other letter "Stick with tolls campaign" is from Dougie Kinnear of Glenrothes.
Wednesday 12th April
The Courier reports that over 2,000 have signed their petition to "Scrap the Tolls" "Tolls petition hits the 2000 mark".
They have also launched anti toll stickers, which can be collected from newsagents. "Courier anti-toll stickers available".
Tuesday 11th April
The meeting last November that agreed to bring in road user charges on the Forth bridge, was split on the issue, and it was only approved on the casting vote of the chairman- Andrew Burns from Edinburgh. Subsequently a complaint was made to the Standards Commission for Scotland, that he should not have taken part because of his involvement with TIE. Today the Commission has cleared Councillor Burns and said "I have no hesitation in saying that any interest of Cllr Burns as a director of TIE Ltd could not be seen by any reasonable member of the public to have any bearing on the debate.". A rather remarkable statement as TIE were the ones who were commissioned to draw up the charging scheme.
Two tolls letters in the Courier:- A week ago there was a letter asking what taxes would increase if the tolls went. That was well and truly dealt with, but today we have someone asking "Will this mean less money for the NHS and education or higher council tax and/or income tax?" The short answer is No.
The other letter is from A.White of Glenrothes who criticises the MSPs for failing to remove the tolls and just having another "review". He repeats a suggestion that they suspend the bridge tolls for a trial period.
Monday 10th April
The Greens are attacking the Executive for ignoring what they claim will be bad effects on Edinburgh and the Lothians if tolls are removed:- Evening News - "Ballard blasts Executive for ignoring Capital in tolls probe". This must be a joke, even the Greens realise that the Executive will do all they can to cling on to tolls, the Executive spokesman says - "Scottish ministers are well aware that there could be potential negative consequences on congestion in the Lothians if the tolls on the Forth Bridge were removed."
From this morning's Courier:
- SNP "promises" to abolish tolls "Sturgeon pledge: SNP will abolish all bridge tolls" "Delegates attack Executive stance on issue" "Praise for The Courier's campaign"
- Bruce Crawford, SNP MSP, is preparing a private members's Bill to abolish the tolls. We are not sure whether this is the best way to tackle this, though something is better than nothing. Apparently the Bill will go to the Local Government and Transport Cttee where it is said that there is likely to be an even split, with Andrw Arbuckle, Lib Dem MSP, in effect having the casting vote."MSP "under the microscope"".
Sunday 9th April
Brian Forehand who was the Treasurer of Skye and Kyle Against Tolls, and an active member of the anti toll campaign has died. There will be a memorial service held in Pitlochry at 1pm on Tuesday.
Saturday 8th April
Support from all Scottish Authorities
Anne McGovern, the Leader of Fife Council, has got support from COSLA for the removal of all tolls. COSLA is the confederation of all Scottish local authorities. Surprisingly it does not appear to have taken any part in either phase of the Tolled Bridges Review: The Courier The Scotsman.
A couple of letters in The Courier this morning on the tolls (second and third letters). The letter from John Beare of Markinch is another criticism of the "Fife Flip Flop Five MSPs", and suggests that nothing will happen to stop the tolls. The letter from Cat Lee criticises Steve Bargeton of the Courier for being against the greens, and claims that they are really "pro-motorist".
Friday 7th April
Freedom of Information
We have been trying to get at toll facts using the Freedom of Information Scotland Act. Though we have been given some information, we have been refused other items - presumably the bits that they most want to keep secret!
The latest development, yesterday, was that the Executive have refused to give us information about the claimed congestion effects if Tolls are removed. They had only released information about the AM peak, and said nothing about the interpeak or PM peak. The PM peak is of course when the traffic queues to pay the tolls to get back into Fife. We also asked for and were refused the "Brief" or instructions that had been given to those producing the report on effect of removing tolls:- The Courier - "Executive's congestion research stance slated".
There was another letter in the Courier this morning about the financing of the bridges. This is from William Boyle of Kirriemuir:-
"... Older motorists like myself will no doubt remember when what is now designated as a vehicle excise licence was known as the road fund licence.
This was imposed with the laudable intention of making motorists pay for their use of public roads and the money thus collected was designed to be used for no other purpose than the maintenance of these roads and associated bridges.
Unfortunately ... successive governments have blatantly robbed this fund and used its monies for purposes not even remotely connected with roads maintenance and it was only when the scale of these depredations became obvious to the general electorate that the name was changed.
If the taxes collected from motorists ... were to be used for their original purpose then I am sure there would be no need for any toll bridges, and poor quality roads such as the A9-which is an absolute disgrace for a main arterial highway-could be transformed virtually overnight with the many millions of pounds which would then be available."
There was also a letter from G. M. Lindsay of Kinross:-
"Congratulations on your recent excellent editorial comment which totally exposed the humbug and hypocritical haverings of Labour and Lib-Dem MSPs in Fife and Tayside relating to ... the removal of tolls on the Tay and Forth road bridges.
Over the years we have become inured to politicians being economic with the truth but the behaviour of these individuals is breathtaking and surely plumbs new depths.
They have raised the art of doublespeak to a new level-how can they ever be trusted in the future?
A sad day for democracy in general and in the Scottish parliament in particular. I'd be surprised if anyone bothers to vote in the 2007 elections-why bother?"
Thursday 6th April
Financing Free bridges
On Tuesday there was a letter from Edinburgh asking which taxes would increase if tolls were removed. Today the Courier prints two answers. One from us, and one from John Hoodless of Rosyth:- Letters (top two).
Wednesday 5th April
John J Marshall has a piece in the Courier - "For Whom the Bridge Tolls" with a scathing attack on the MSPs:- (Word document).
Freedom of Speech 1
On Friday our petition to the MSPs closed with over 1,600 signatures. We were hoping to get a chance to speak on the petition to the MSPs. After all they recently gave a hearing to a petition against toll increases, that appeared to be signed by just one man. But yesterday the Public Petitions Committee confirmed that they were refusing permission. Courier - "Activists refused the chance to speak".
Freedom of Speech 2
Several weeks ago the BBC accepted a piece from us for their "Write For Us" page. Nothing happened, and today they published something similar from somebody who is as far as we know is not a campaigner against the tolls. We wonder how this was decided? "Are Fife tolls a bridge too far?".
This is what the BBC did not publish:-
"Roads are an essential feature of a civilised nation, but there were once hundreds of toll barriers in Scotland. Then an 1878 Act decreed that all tolls, exaction of statute labour and bridge money should cease in Scotland by 1st June 1883.
Scotland was then free of tolls till 1964 when the Forth bridge opened as a toll bridge, to be joined by tolled bridges over the Tay in 1966, the Clyde at Erskine in 1971 and to Skye in 1995. The Skye toll was removed at the end of 2004, and the Erskine toll will go at the end of March, but the authorities want to keep the other two. The Scottish Executive control an annual budget of £30 billion, yet they hang on to £16 million of tolls as if their lives depended on it!
The Executive say that the Tay tolls should remain because they reduce congestion and because the bridge has not been "paid for". Everyone in Dundee knows that the congestion is caused by people queuing to pay the tolls. Tolls which each year are nearly as much as the bridge cost to build.
On the Forth, they say that they may have to build another bridge and again they say that tolls reduce congestion. But traffic in 2005 was actually down on 2003 by 100,000, and there are many ways of improving traffic flow - not least of which is removing the tolls! As for a new bridge, that could be 10 years away or maybe never - if it was financed from tolls, then there would be no users, no finance and no bridge.
Users of these 2 toll bridges can not understand why they have to pay tolls. There are hundreds of other bridges and thousands of miles of road which are not tolled.
Judging by the people of Edinburgh rejecting tolls by a margin of three to one in February 2005, most people do not want tolls in their area. Tolls inhibit economic activity by discouraging businesses that depend on road transport or tourists, and can cause drivers to make longer journeys on less suitable routes.
The National Alliance Against Tolls Scotland wants all the tolls removed and has petitioned MSPs. If you agree that removing the tolls is fair and will enable Scotland to sell itself to businesses and tourists as a "toll free" nation, then please sign the petition."
Tuesday 4th April
The Courier continues its campaign against the tolls. What we show here is just a sample of what is in the paper each day:
- Letters include one from Andrew Arbuckle, the Lib Dem MSP who said he was against the Tay bridge tolls, but like all the other Lib Dem and Labour MSPs voted against last week's SNP motion that the Tay tolls go. Andrews says "... I remain strongly of the view that the tolls on the Tay Road Bridge must go and I stated so in last week's debate. But the removal of charges has to be planned and maintenance and safety on the bridge has to be assured.
After decades of ignoring the issue, the SNP came forward with a simplistic proposal that left many questions unanswered. Let us proceed to removing the tolls, but let us do it in a sensible and businesslike manner..."
But Andrew Gilmour from Leven says "I suggest that the Tay Road Bridge Tolls be renamed "The Arbuckle-Smith Tax", in due recognition of the two MSPs (amongst others) who, against all of their previous statements, voted to ensure the continuation of tolls, congestion and pollution....."
- Andrew expands on his reasons for voting against the removal of the tolls in this article - "MSP criticised over tolls stance hits back". We wonder if this rhetoric will be used to argue for what he says he wants?
- Gary Dunion from Edinburgh says in a letter " I can see arguments on both sides of the debate over bridge tolls, but can those crusaders who have firmly made up their minds in favour of abolition tell me which tax they want to increase to replace the tolls in the balance sheet?" We wonder how the roads in Edinburgh are financed?
Further reports on the Bills against the tolls - Scotsman Tuesday -"Fresh attempts to end all road bridge tolls" BBC Monday -"Labour and SNP bid to end tolls".
Monday 3rd April
From this morning's Courier:
- The SNP led by Bruce Crawford and Labour led by Helen Eadie seem to be competing with each other to present Bills that would abolish both the tolls "MSPs could get another chance to scrap tolls". The opposition from the MSPs is welcome, but there is a danger that we end up still stuck with the two tolls. Can't the MSPs cooperate on this? It is not clear that a change in the law is needed, the tolls could possibly be removed and the bridges taken over by Executive action. Why could not the MSPs have agreed a simple joint resolution calling on the Executive to take the necessary steps to do this?
- David Chalmers of the Federation of Small Businesses suggests that Tavish Scott (Transport Minister) instead of flying, should try driving down to Edinburgh "to sample the problems the rest of us face." He says that if the politicians don't scrap tolls now, then at the next election it will be "time to say goodbye" to them. "No go from ministerial Mondeo".
There are several letters published on the web page: (2nd, 3rd and 4th letters).
Sunday 2nd April
Like the dailies, the Sundays have done what the Executive wanted and ignored the end of the Erskine bridge toll. About the only toll related story today, is a green inspired attack in the Sunday Herald. Believe it or not, they criticise the Executive for not being tougher on "car traffic, and the climate-wrecking pollution it generates." Amongst other things they want to keep and increase road tolls.
There is no unanimity on whether an increase in the various "greenhouse" gases is having a material negative affect on the climate. In any case, road vehicles are only responsible for a small share of these gases, yet are the only ones that are heavily taxed.
As for, tolls - they do not vary with the amount of gases produced and can encourage drivers to make longer journeys to avoid the tolls. Those who advocate tolls and other measures against drivers do so out of an obsessive dislike of road transport, and not for any rational reasons.
Saturday 1st April
Letter in this morning's Courier from Alex Farrer in Crail:
"Sir,-In 65 years of being on this Earth, I cannot think of any precedent whereby our politicians (or at least some of them) have so adroitly manoeuvred themselves into a situation of committing personal and party suicide.
The will of the individual voter, throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, has been ignored, presumably because the present Executive imagine that scrapping the Tay and Forth tolls just before the 2007 election will be a vote winner, and they will be so wrong!
The public will not forgive being treated in such a manner.
Firstly, may I remind those MSPs who opted out that their clear and over-riding mandate, when elected, is to represent the will of those who put them there. Party politics do not come into it.
Secondly, in following the party whip so slavishly, the possibility (nay, probability), exists that they may well be playing into the hands of one or more of the other parties whose stratagem for the 2007 elections is not necessarily the will of the majority.
This will come home to haunt them!"
Midnight on Friday marked both the end of tolls on the Erskine bridge and the last chance to sign our petition to the MSPs.
- When the Skye bridge tolls were removed 15 months earlier it was major news. Jack McConnell and Nicol Stephen went to Kyleakin to make the announcement on the 21st December 2004. The First Minister said "This is the start of a new era for Skye. Instead of the bridge being a symbol of controversy, it can now be a symbol for growth and prosperity."
By contrast the tolls on the Erskine bridge are going with a whimper. There is almost no mention of it anywhere. Why are the politicians not trumpeting the economic and traffic benefits of removing the tolls on the bridge over the Clyde? Could it be that the Scottish Executive don't want a fuss in case it further rouses the wrath of those in Fife and on Tayside who will still be subject to a tolls regime?
- Our petition to the MSPs on the Parliament website was signed by over 1,600 people, including one person from the Philippines!
The principal petitioner is George Campbell from Glenrothes. He and other campaigners are looking forward to addressing the Public Petitions committee when it meets on the 19th April. Though as the MSPs have just kicked the tolls question into the long grass, there is now some doubt as to whether they will allow the petitioners to be heard.
Our "April Fool" Press release.
About the only report on the demise of the tolls was in Glasgow's Evening Times on Thursday which reported the demolition of the tolls booths "Noise takes its toll".
Though there is a loss of toll collection jobs on the Erskine bridge, Andy White, leader of West Dunbarton Council, said there will be "20,000 new jobs across a whole range of areas. Clearly the removal of the tolls increases the access that West Dunbartonshire has to Glasgow airport. We know tolls have acted as a barrier to businesses locating in this area so it's a tremendous boost financially to the wider economic area here in the West of Scotland."
In this morning's Courier, Dundee's Lord Provost John Letford, council leader Jill Shimi and most senior councillor Ian Borthwick
vow to carry on the fight, despite the MSPs letting the people down on Thursday "Council pledge to carry on tolls fight" "Attack on MSPs 'who ran away'".
Friday 31st March
Tonight's Evening Telegraph reports that they asked for details of the Tolls review, and the answer that they got or didn't get. The Chambers of Commerce reiterate their opposition to the tolls. "Toll review: no details".
On the 1st March, the Executive showed what they thought of the people by saying that Two of the Tolls would stay. Yesterday, the MSPs had a chance to show that they did not approve, instead they betrayed the people. Some were in favour of removing at least the Tay tolls, but the majority voted to back the Executive who said that they would have another "review". Not a single MSP moved that the Forth tolls be scrapped.
The original motion from Shona Robison of the SNP said "That the Parliament agrees that the tolls on the Tay bridge should be removed." There were three amendments:
1. From Murdo Fraser for the Tories - "As an amendment to motion S2M-4197 in the name of Shona Robison (Bridge Tolls), insert at end "and notes that in so doing the costs of relocating the toll plaza from the north end of the bridge to the south would be saved.".
2. From Shiona Baird for the Greens - "As an amendment to motion S2M-4197 in the name of Shona Robison (Bridge Tolls), insert at end "for public transport in addition to the existing exemptions, that a scheme of "smart tolls" should be introduced, which takes into account factors such as occupancy levels and peak hour traffic flows, and that the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board should be given more flexibility to use toll revenues to deal with transport issues in the vicinity."
3. The last amendment was from Tavish Scott, the Transport Minister, for the Executive - "As an amendment to motion S2M-4197 in the name of Shona Robison (Bridge Tolls), leave out from "agrees" to end and insert "notes the responses, analysis and conclusions set out in the recent consultation and review of Scotland's tolled bridges, including the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board's response; notes that the bridges review met all of the Board's requests, and recommends an examination of the economic, social and environmental impact and cost of retaining or removing tolls from the Tay and Forth bridges, on Fife and Dundee, the proposals for which will be reported on as soon as possible."
The Executive amendment was taken first and passed by 63 votes to 48 with 2 formal abstentions. The amendment wasa voted for by the Labour and Lib Dems and 1 Independent, and against, by SNP, Tories, Greens, SSP and 1 Independent. The other 2 amendments were then deemed to have fallen. The motion as amended was passed by 65 votes to 45 with 3 formal abstentions.
What does all this mean?
The original motion from the SNP was a weak one, which resulted in the ludicrous poition that the Tories and Greens who want Tolls were voting with them. By voting to back the Executive's meaningless motion, those Labour MSPs who said that they opposed the tolls, appear to have put party loyalty before the interests of their constituents.
Yesterday's Tolls debate Yesterday's Tolls vote
This morning's Courier:
- Report from Steve Bargeton on yesterday's vote "'Cynical' MSPs fail to scrap Tay tolls".
- Comment "The great betrayal".
- Some of the MSPs who went back on what they had told the Courier "MSPs who say one thing, vote another".
- Part of what MSPs said "Review branded 'political fix'".
- Despite the MSPs achieving nothing, the local councils say they will continue to oppose the tolls "Angus Council steps up effort".
- "Drivers have paid £30m for crossing the Tay".
Thursday 30th March
Tonight's Evening Telegraph reports on the start of today's debate at Holyrood: "Future without tolls". How many MSPs will support the people, and how many will put their party dogma first?
The Greens have called for more tolls. This is of course what the Executive want but dare not admit to.
Laughingly the Minister reportedly said that "any change to existing policy must be based on facts". Reality is that the Executive have done their best to keep the full facts from the public.
Report on BBC.
This morning's Courier:
- Report by Steve Bargeton previewing today's debate at Holyrood "D-Day as Tay tolls vote looms".
- Both the Dundee & Tayside Chamber of Commerce and the national chamber have joined in the call for "no tolls" "Chambers join in calls".
- Perth and Kinross Council have also joined in, following a motion by Councillor John Hulbert"Council's backing for toll-free Scotland".
- Letters on the effect of Tuesday's strike.
Today's debate and the opposition to tolls of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce is also covered in the Scotsman.
The chamber's director, Liz Cameron, says the motion by Shona Robison did not go far enough. "To put all areas of Scotland on a level playing field, the Scottish Executive needs to act now to axe the tolls on all of Scotland's bridges. We want action rather than just words." Well said! "Executive to look at ending bridge tolls".
Wednesday 29th March
Andy Anderson one of the leaders of the Skye anti tolls campaigners had a meeting with MSPs at Holyrood today. The meeting was to discuss the criminal convictions of the protestors. This is press release before the meeting.
Tonight's Evening News had a letter from Peter of Inverkeithing: "WHILST not minding the short term benefit of not paying tolls to cross the Forth Road Bridge during the yesterday's strike, I do take exception to FETA's policy of maximum disruption to motorists by only having two lanes open.
Why is FETA intent on making life so difficult for motorists? Is it afraid to see how traffic flow may improve without its unfair burdens on the motorist and businesses?"
Lots of goodies in today's Courier:
- Due to a public sector strike, traffic flowed more freely over both bridges on Tuesday as there were no tolls. This was despite the authorities restricting traffic using the Forth Road bridge: "Traffic flows freely on toll-free bridges".
- Various brief messages, including John Conelly asking why local politicians appear to have only now woken up to the problem of the tolls - Perhaps the answer is that many of them were hoodwinked like the public: "Why did it take so long to protest?".
Tuesday 28th March
Tonight's Evening Telegraph reports on a "Scrap the Tolls NOW" demonstration led by Shona Robison, SNP MSP for Dundee East: "Politicians unite to fight bridge tolls".
No tolls today on the Forth and Tay bridges due to strikes. The Tay bridge will otherwise operate normally, so it will be an interesting test of what it would be like if (when?) tolls are scrapped. Unfortunately on the Forth bridge, they have decided to put restrictions on. This letter was sent to one of the papers:-
"FETA are refusing to allow vehicles unhindered access to the Forth Road Bridge [Northbound] through the strike-hit toll booths on Tuesday, allegedly in the interests of road safety.
Could this not also be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to CREATE or MAINTAIN congestion in Lothian Region in order to justify their particular stance on the issue of tolls rather than using Tuesday as an exercise to see just how freely the traffic would flow if the tolls were to be abolished?
At the same time, of course, no attempt is made to alleviate the morning problem which is caused not by the tolls [which do not exist Southbound] but by the inadequate road infrastructure again on the Lothian side.
Is the public [particularly those from Fife] being hoodwinked yet again?
May I also state that it is sad to see two separate camps emerging in regard to fighting the Forth and Tay tolls.
Divide and conquer is the oldest trick in the book."
From the Courier:
- David Chalmers from the Federation of Small Businesses says that the people will be watching how MSPs vote in Thursday's tolls debate: "MSPs warned of vote scrutiny".
- Angus Council on Thursday will be asked by councillor Frank Ellis to support the scrapping of the Tay and Forth tolls, and direct their chief executive to lobby politicians.
Monday 27th March
This morning's Courier:
- The SNP have alloted the second half of their debate time on Thursday to "Bridge Tolls" (the first half is "Sport"): "MSPs to vote this week on scrapping Tay tolls". The report says that there will be a motion that the tolls be removed. That motion is not available, and it is not clear whether SNP are calling for all tolls to go, or just the Tay.
- At Perth and Kinross Council, a Lib Dem and an SNP councillor have put forward a joint motion calling for all tolls to be scrapped: "Council to confirm position". We hope that councillors from all parties will back this motion.
- David Alexander, leader of the SNP group on Fife Council, has attacked the tolls and those Lib Dems who want to keep them: "Retention of charges 'appalling'". Half the Lib Dem councillors in Fife oppose the tolls, but unfortunately the more vocal half and most of the Lib Dem MSPs want to keep them.
Sunday 26th March
4 Labour MSPs- Helen Eadie, Marilyn Livingstone, Christine May and Scott Barrie have called for Labour to include scrapping of Forth and Tay tolls in its manifesto. In a separate move - 4 other Labour MSPs- Kate Maclean, Jim McGovern, Marlyn Glen and Richard Baker, together with the Dundee Lord Provost John Letford and Dundee City Council leader Jill Shimi have done the same thing but only mentioning the tolls on the Tay. Accoriding to the Courier, the first 4 Labour MSPs have also signed this letter: Courier on Saturday - "Labour MSPs want bridge tolls scrapped" Evening News on Saturday - "Labour MSPs want bridge tolls scrapped".
It appears that there is now a split between the Tay and the Forth. What a pity, this only plays into the hands of the tolls establishment.
The Skye bridge tolls went in 2004, the Erskine bridge tolls go this week. Why should the MSPS want the people of Fife and Tayside to wait?
Yesterday's Scotsman had someone called Tavish Scott attacking Labour for not supporting higher tolls on the Forth road bridge: "Lib Dem's 'double standards' taunt hits Darling".
In case you forgot, Tavish is the Transport Minister - so we now know where he wants to go.
You may also have forgotten Willie. He was the Lib Dem victor in the recent by-election, he said he was opposed to higher tolls and his supporters said that they would scrap them. Is Willie a triple agent?
Friday 24th March
This morning's Courier confirms that, due to a strike on Tuesday 28th March, there will be no tolls for a day. But that "traffic from the A90 and Echline junction will be reduced to two lanes before it reaches the toll plaza": "Toll free on Forth bridge-for a day". We wondered if they would do anything to stop a demonstration of a toll free day. Why they didn't bring in a few people carrying red flags?
Thursday 23rd March
From this morning's Courier:-
- Following Monday's meeting of FETA, Councillor Jock Cameron says that he will continue to fight the tolls: "Pledge to fight on after setback". He is quoted as saying that "It might not be this year as the budget has been set but we could certainly try and get it sorted out by next March." The chances of scrapping the tolls reduce every day. The amount collected from the tolls is almost invisible compared wuith the Executive's budget.
- Marilyn Livingstone MSP says that the tolls damage the Fife economy: "Ministers 'must consider tolls damage'". Let us hope that she and the other MSPs will fight the tolls, as MSPs did elsewhere.
- Yesterday the organiser of a petition for a new Forth bridge submitted it to the MSPs. Strange how this petition, from someone who admitted that he wanted to keep the tolls, got so much publicity.
Wednesday 22nd March
From this morning's Courier:-
- Various views of readers: "Voice being heard at last". One anonymous Fife reader says that "Scrapping tolls will force up income tax. Why should those who never use the bridges have to pay for their upkeep, more so when the lifetime of the Forth bridge is said to be 10 years." This will no doubt please the authorities that their disinformation has some success. They have people still believing that the Forth bridge is about to fall down. They don't mention that roads users already pay about seven times more in taxes than is spent on the roads, or that Gordon Brown's total taxes are £450 billion, and the Two Tolls collect about £15 million.
- The Courier says that 1,070 readers have posted in petition forms. This is very good, but our epetition to MSPs has got 1,560 signatures - a pity that we can't get together.
- Dundee & Tayside Chamber of Commerce and Industry is surveying members on thier view of tolls. One in four want them to be kept: "Listening to firms on tolls abolition". Strange that the Chamber are so lukewarm. It contrasts with the attitude of business groups that represent the West of Scotland or the whole of Scotland.
Tuesday 21st March
Tonight's Evening News reports that Lawrence Marshall, the chairman of FETA, is to ask the Scottish Executive for £160 million or so. His first priority is a ferry and some buses. We suspect that if he waits a bit, the Executive will instead let him increase the bridge tolls.
The Evening News also gives some space to Lawrence to air his views. Is this part of the attempt to sell tolls? - Or is it a warning?
This is the motion that was moved at yesterday's FETA meeting by Mike Rumney:-
"In light of recent ministerial announcements decisions and the publication of the report on Phase Two of the Tolled Bridges Review, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority must now consider the extension of the Tolling Order until end of March 2010 to be an unfair and inequitable burden placed upon residents and businesses north of the Forth estuary.
On behalf of all toll payers - now that Fife has the only tolled bridges in Scotland - I would move that this board formally propose to the Scottish Executive that the Tolling Order be rescinded at the earliest opportunity with full abolition of charges to cross the Forth road bridge.
I would also move that FETA recommend that the Scottish Executive - forthwith - adopt the Forth road bridge and all approaches onto the list of trunk roads and assume responsibility for their future maintenance as part of the strategic roads network."
FETA have just revamped their web site. We wonder how much of bridge tolls was spent on this. And is this a sign that they are about to be wound up?
From this morning's Courier:-
- The pro tolls people on FETA say that it has been "goosed". They still want the £4 tolls to give them lots of cash to spend on their various schemes:- "FETA left in limbo after tolls rejection". If anybody has been "goosed" it is the bridge users who are being forced to continue to pay tolls.
- Dundee Council last night agreed to call for an end to Tay bridge tolls:- "Unanimous backing for bridge tolls call".
This was the resolution moved by the Convener, Jill Shimi:-
"1) to give full support to the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board's decision to ask the Minister to rescind the Tay Bridge Tolls, and
(2) to give full support to the campaign to abolish tolls on the Tay Road Bridge and write to the appropriate Minister in conjunction with Fife and Angus Councils to ask for an early meeting to put forward the case for the abolition of the tolls."
Monday 20th March
FETA who control the Forth road bridge met this morning to discuss tolls, There was a motion to scrap them, but it was defeated by 6 votes to 3. The votes for came from 3 Fife councillors - Mike Rumney, Alice McGarry and Jock Cameron.
Higher tolls would not ease congestion on the Forth bridge - this is according to Tavish Scott, the Transport Minister:- "£4 bridge tolls 'would not cut congestion'". This appears to come from an item on this morning's FETA agenda. Odd that £4 tolls don't reduce congestion, but they claim that £1 tolls do.
Sunday 19th March
The Sunday Times reports that the Lib Dems will campaign for the abolition of the tolls on the Tay bridge:- "Plan to axe Tay toll stuns Labour". As the one who decided to keep the tolls is Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem Transport Minister, perhaps they could start their campaign with him.
FETA, the board that runs the Forth road bridge, meets tomorrow to discuss the tolls. Will they like the Tay board, campaign for the removal of the tolls. Or will they complain that they can't increase them. We have contacted some of the Fife councillors - our message.
Saturday 18th March
Last night's Evening News reports that Tony Martin the Fife Lib Dem transport spokesman had attacked Anne McGovern the Leader of Fife Council. He opposes the campaign to try and get the bridge tolls removed:- "Politicians clash over bridge tolls".
From this morning's Courier:
- The paper points out that though Fife and Tayside will bear through tolls the cost of the Two bridges, the people in those areas will help to pay for the future cost of the Erskine bridge:- "Taxpayers to bear Erskine costs burden". The real point is that all roads users, even without tolls, are paying £7 taxes for every £1 that is spent on roads and all the bridges .
- After yesterday's attack by Tony Martin - Christine May MSP and Councillor Mike Rumney come to the defence:- "Lib Dem attacks council's stance".
- Plans for a ferry service, subsidised by £20 million of bridge tolls, may still go ahead with some of the cost being met from other sources:- "Forth ferry proposals remain afloat". This is presented as good news, but bridge users don't want to subsidise any of the cost .
- Tory MSP, David Davidson, has lashed out at the Executive and the other parties for secretly planning to bring in "congestion" charging on the Forth bridge:- "Tories say Feta created for congestion charge".
Friday 17th March
From this morning's Courier:
- Questions From Iain Smith and Shona Robison about the Tay bridge tolls yesterday at Holyrood:- "MSP nails flaw in data on bridge congestion".
- Tavish Scott, the Minister who announced that the Two Tolls will be kept, yesterday announced that he was spending one billion pounds on various transport projects:- "How lavish of Tavish, says reader".
- Review of the Review of Tolled Bridges report:- "Tolls here to stay-new report".
These are the two questions raised at Holyrood yesterday:-
- Iain Smith (North East Fife) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will publish the traffic-modelling data for the Tay road bridge that were prepared to inform the tolled bridges review. "Parliament website (you may need to scroll down)".
- Kate Maclean (Dundee West) (Lab): To ask the First Minister what consideration has been given to abolishing tolls on the Tay road bridge. "Parliament website (you may need to scroll down)".
Thursday 16th March
The Courier launched an online poll yesterday. This morning they report that so far 92% of votes are for their "Scrap the bridge Tolls" campaign.
You can vote online here, or ring 08700 500 236, or email:- Courier (Scrap the tolls).
Wednesday 15th March
It is likely that there will be a strike of Edinburgh council workers on Tuesday 28th March, according to the Evening News. They say that "toll collectors on the Forth Road Bridge will join in the stoppage. Bridge chiefs said that they may be forced to scrap tolls on days of industrial action."
Don't count on it. When the Erskine bridge toll staff had a series of strikes last summer, some of the toll booths were manned by management and strike breakers. The toll queues got longer.
Report in Evening News on next Monday's meeting of the Forth Bridge board:- "Bridge chiefs in emergency talks after £1 freeze on tolls"
From this morning's Courier:
- Bruce Crawford MSP is angry that the Forth tolls are being extended "by the back door":- "Minister 'sneaks in' go-ahead for tolls". This is the Order inflicting tolls for at least another 4 years, and signed by a civil servant.
- Response from Courier readers to their Scrap the Tolls campaign:- "Readers rush to back our drive". The Courier also have a special email address for their campaign and say that they will have an online poll "Have say on our website".
- The Tories are backing the call for tolls to be removed from the Tay bridge. What a pity that most of the Tory MSPs want to keep tolls on the Forth bridge: "Tories hail plea to scrap Tay tolls".
- There was also a letter today from the Forth bridgemaster in answer to concerns that we supposedly had over the Forth bridge. In fact our concerns were not over the bridge, but over the scare stories which may have been coming from official sources. The letter says nothing about the scare stories, but does say that they expect to be able to deal with any problem, if in fact there turns out to be one, and that we "can rest assured we will continue to implement world-class standards of maintenance at the Forth Road Bridge"
We sent a response to the Courier, but they did not publish it, here it is:-
"The Forth Bridgemaster reassures us that there is nothing wrong with the bridge that will not be put right. He also mentions the report that was commissioned by the Scottish Executive.
Our alliance never said there was anything wrong with the bridge our concern was that headlines such as "Fears time running out for road bridge" and "Chaos fears as bridge lifespan put at 10 years" only diverted attention from the tolls issue.
The report that he mentions was produced in January. We were not allowed to see it, and it was only published recently following a Freedom of Information request from us. The report concludes that corrosion was only "of serious concern if left unchecked".
One might wonder why this report was kept from the public, particularly during the recent by-election.
Courier readers may remember that a certain Queensferry resident was promising to give the people a new bridge. Did anyone think to tell Gordon that the old bridge was not going to fall down?
The report was also published after the Transport Minister said on the 1st March that he was keeping tolls on the two bridges. He told the MSPs "The issue of most concern is cable corrosion on the Forth bridge". Perhaps the Bridgemaster should also be telling Tavish there is nothing wrong. Maybe then he will scrap all the tolls.
Monday 13th March
We have been asking the Executive every other day, whether and when Tavish Scott has signed the order that says the tolls will be kept. We have now learnt that he "signed" it on Thursday 9th March, extending the tolls until at least 2010. This is presumably the Executive's signal to the Councils of what they think of their plea for tolls to stop. What will they and MSPs do?
The Tay Bridge Board late this morning decided to ask the Scottish Executive to scrap the tolls:- BBC - "Bridge board call to scrap tolls" Evening Telegraph - "Councillors back scrapping of tolls"
This morning's report in the Courier that Dundee's Lord Provost was to call on the Tay Bridge Board to get the tolls scrapped:- "Bridge board likely to ask for tolls to go"
These are this morning's reports Reports that Dundee's Lord Provost is to call on the Tay Bridge Board to get the tolls scrapped:- BBC - "Calls to scrap Tay Bridge tolls
" Courier - "Bridge board likely to ask for tolls to go"
The Courier reports on the experience of a cancer patient:- "Former patient backs drive". This happens all round Britain because there are relatively few radiotherapy centres and many visits have to be made.
The Courier had four of their reporters do a journey from Dunfermline to Edinburgh during the morning peak. They went by train, bus, park and ride, and car:- "Transport choices put to test
". An interesting account, but what does it show. Firstly that there is road congestion - a problem which needs to be addressed in various ways, but not by tolls. Secondly, that the train is comfortable (if you can get a seat) and avoids the road congestion - because of vast subsidies and few people using it. Thirdly - don't go to Edinburgh city centre by road - and most drivers aren't.
Saturday 11th March
- The Courier reports that Dundee and Fife councils intend to lobby Tavish Scott to try and get the tolls stopped. The story only mentions the Tay bridge - is this a mistake in the story? "Councils seek tolls urgent meeting"
Friday 10th March
- Most of the politicians are falling over themselves to oppose the Forth and the Tay tolls. We are grateful, though their action may be too late. One exception is the Tories, where among the MSPs only Ted Brocklebank is opposed to the tolls. Tory MSP Brian Monteith even went to the trouble of writing in tonight's Evening News:- "Thinking about bridge makes me cross. We now know that a new Forth Road Bridge will be built, which is nice. With its main cables corroding, it's in a worse state than the Scottish Parliament, and has to be repaired so it can be operational while a new bridge is built - and preferably longer. As this costs money it would be daft to abolish the tolls only to reintroduce them again when a new bridge is built alongside. It's not as if there are no toll-free bridges helping people escape from Fife..... Just be thankful we're getting a bridge at all." Wow!
Meanwhile Tory Fife Councillor Stuart Randall, who used to be the biggest advocate of tolls, now says "We can't have west Fife the only place in Scotland with tolls.". He is also pointing out that Tory pro tolls policy is not the impression that voters might have got from :- Catherine Stihler's election leaflet, where she said that existing toll should be scrapped before a new bridge was built.
- Apparently FETA the Forth bridge authority were planning to spend £19 million of bridge tolls to subsidise a ferry. But, for the moment anyway, their plans have been scuppered:- Alan Roden in the Evening News - "Lack of cash threatens to sink Leith-Kirkcaldy ferry hopes"
- Angus Council passes no tolls motion:- Courier - "Angus adds weight to tolls campaign"
Thursday 9th March
- More reports from the Courier and their campaign to scrap the tolls. "New move to have Tay tolls scrapped" "Resounding call for end to tolls" "'Ludicrous' decision condemned" "Chamber of commerce gets behind campaign" "Council asked to show support".
- Yesterday and today we have again been in contact with MSPs. Our message includes:- "When our alliance was formed there were four bridge tolls, now it seems that there will be two. Most people believe that is two too many.....Nearly all of the MSPs from the affected area want both the Forth and Tay tolls to stop immediately. Tolls are an unfair, regressive tax, and we believe that it will be a boost to the whole of Scotland, if it can sell itself to businesses and tourists as a "toll free" nation. It took a long (too long) time to get the tolls on the Skye and Erskine bridges removed, but who would now support their reinstatement?".
Wednesday 8th March
- More reports from the Courier. We hope that this is not all sound and fury signifying nothing. "Councils to talk tactics on tolls" "Another MSP adds support to campaign" "Bridge corrosion report validated". And one from Edinburgh's Evening News:- "City chiefs urged to back scrapping of Forth tolls".
Tuesday 7th March
- Following a request from us under the Freedom of Information, the Executive have now published the report that they commissioned from Flint & Neill on the corrosion of cables on the Forth bridge. It is a largely technical report and we have not assimilated it yet, but the conclusion of the report says:- "It is our considered opinion that while the corrosion is of serious concern if left unchecked, there is no urgency to limit the loading on the bridge at this time. However, it is strongly recommended that action be taken to protect the cables from further deterioration as soon as practical." Sounds like a good idea! In any case it seems that the bridge is not going to fall down.
- The Herald reports that Jack McConnell still wants to introduce Road User Charges on the Forth bridge, but "To introduce such a regime in advance of final decisions on a replacement crossing was deemed to be too early":- "McConnell: congestion charge is possible". Thank's Jack, so now we know.
- Copy of what one of the Fife councillors (John Mackenzie) said at last week's meeting.
Monday 6th March
- It had been reported that all the Tory MSPs were backing the Executive decision to keep tolls on the Forth bridge. But one of them - Ted Brocklebank - has reaffirmed his previous position - he believes tolls should be removed from all the bridges.
- Tonight's Evening News says that "Funds secure 'missing link' road to bridge". Really? The road will cost £40 million and all we have is an offer of £6 million - the only confirmation of which is a story in the paper!
- Today's Courier continues their campaign against the tolls -
"Lib Dem 'U-turn' attacked" "Councillor urges all sectors to unite against charges" "Labour group backing for Courier campaign" "Taxpayers pay dearly for (Skye) bridge buyout'".
Sunday 5th March
- From Saturday's Courier - There are so many people now opposing the tolls we wonder where they all were before!
"Councils unite in anti-tolls drive" "Let's end tailbacks and delays -hauliers" "Toll campaign builds bridges" "Tory lashes his party for 'taking wrong side'" "'Pure annoyance' that could put shoppers off".
Friday 3rd March
- Tonight's Comment in the Evening News "'Axing tolls would shorten the bridge's limited life span'" backs having tolls on the Forth bridge and even wants Road User Charging introduced. The reason that they give for this is that otherwise the bridge will fall down due to the weight of traffic. We assume that the Evening News must have a good source for this "information", but we are very disappointed that they have decided to back the Trolls.
- The Evening News also reports that using the Freedom of Information Act it has uncovered that FETA's abortive (for now) Road User Charging scheme cost £145,000 in "consultant's" fees. Just a drop in the tolls ocean then!
- Three from this morning's Courier:- "Cross-party demands to abolish bridge tolls"
"'Hypocrisy' over tolls attacked"
"Ceiling scare means tolls row reprieve".
Thursday 2nd March Evening
- We contacted the Executive who have confirmed that what Tavish Scott told MSPs yesterday meant that he has refused FETA's application for approval in principle to a Road User Charging scheme. How long before they put it in again and he says "yes"? They were reluctant to make it clear whether the Minister has yet signed the Order to extend the Forth tolls - let's hope that his pen is out of ink!
- More on the tolls announcement: Evening Telegraph - "Toll row rages on"
Evening News - "Bridge boss furious over decision to freeze tolls"
Glasgow's Evening Times reported that Glasgow council leader Steven Purcell said he was ".. delighted at the Erskine decision which would be a boost for the whole area..". They also report the AA saying that the authorities must ensure that users of the Forth and Tay bridges get "value for their money". As all roads users pay seven times more than is spent on the roads - what do they suggest - free cinema tickets with every crossing? Unfortunately the AA and the RAC stopped representing motorists years ago, they are now just part of the transport establishment.
Thursday 2nd March Morning
- The Official Report of what the Transport Minister told Parliament about the tolls yesterday
- Reports in this morning's papers on yesterday's news include:-
Courier - "Fury erupts as Forth and Tay tolls remain"
Courier - "Courier campaign launched"
Courier - "Executive's 'contempt' for Tayside and Fife"
Courier - "Parties unite in call to scrap Tay bridge toll"
Courier - "Decision unfair to Fifers, council fumes"
Courier - "Abolition of charges could come"
Courier - "New MP welcomes no rise decision"
Daily Record - "BELL TOLLS ON BRIDGE CHARGES"
The Herald - "The bridges that divide us"
The Herald - "Fudge on bridge tolls"
The Herald - "Bridge tolls row splits country as Erskine charges axed"
The Scotsman - "A tale of two crossings as cities react to toll decisions"
- To distract from the tolls news, there is more spin about the Fantasy Forth bridge:- The Scotsman - "The new bridge - an idea whose time has come"
- In January (see 5th January below) the Procurator Fiscal who prosecuted Skye anti toll campaigners, revealed that he had doubts over the legality of the tolls. Today the Highland Council will debate a question put by Councillor Drew Millar from Portree:- "Given the recent BBC interviews with the former procurator fiscal at Dingwall, Mr Hingston, regarding the convictions for failing to pay Skye Bridge tolls, wherein he admitted to having prosecuted Highland Council constituents using copied parts of civil documents and without sight of any statutory identification statement publicising the official assignation of ministerial rights, I wish to ask the Convener whether the Council would support a request to the Lord Advocate to reconsider the validity of the convictions in respect of non payment of the Skye Bridge tolls.". It is expected that the council will agree to do this.
Andy Anderson, leading "criminal" amongst the campaigners, is to meet with MSPs on the 29th March at Holyrood. He is seeking the quashing of the criminal convictions, and compensation for the costs incurred.
Wednesday 1st March Evening
The good "news" is that tolls on the Erskine bridge go at the end of the month. The bad "news" is that the Forth and Tay tolls will stay:-
- Updated BBC report following the announcement:- "Bridge tolls shake-up announced" "Quotes" More views.
- The Evening Times reports reaction, on removal of Erskine tolls:- "Erskine Bridge tolls are to be scrapped".
- The Evening Telegraph reports reaction, including from Fife Council. So far they have done nothing, let us hope that they will act now:- "MSP makes case for toll scrap".
- Press Association report:- "Erskine bridge tolls scrapped".
Strangely the Evening News chose today to publish an Opinion piece suggesting that Edinburgh should look again at introducing tolling!
The opinion was inspired by the coincidence that the Cockburn Association want this .
Wednesday 1st March Morning
- The BBC reported on today's likely decision by the cabinet, but the report was replaced by the evening one above.
- Steve Bargeton in the Courier also reports on this and the likely anger if Forth and Tay tolls remain - "D-Day for Forth and Tay bridge tolls".
- The Courier also has a letter from us following on from FSB letter in Monday's paper:- third letter down - "Apathy in Fife regarding tolls".
- Fifers are still being treated as if they were stupid, with an "announcement" that Forth bridge tolls won't be increased for 15 years:- "Bridge toll 'can be kept at £1 for 15 years'".
Tuesday 28th Feb
- We sent out a press release which dissappeared into the ether. Here is part-
"TOLL plans from Tavish Scott the Transport Minister are expected to be approved by the Executive Cabinet tomorrow (Wednesday).
It has been widely leaked that tolls on the Erskine Bridge will stop at the end of March. Tolls on the Forth bridge were due to stop at the end of the March, but it is expected that the Minister will issue an Order keeping those tolls for up to 3 years, by when Road User Charges will be in place.
MSPs last week agreed the Road User Charges Regulations, after the Transport Minister told them that there was no connection between the regulations and tolls on the Forth bridge.
All we have had over the last 6 months is leaks and talk of bridges falling down, fantasy new crossings, and promises of no £4 tolls.
The reality is that tolls which may already be illegal and should stop in 4 weeks will be kept.
The only possible reasons for the new regulations is that either the tolls are already illegal or they plan to increase the tolls using congestion as an excuse.
There are many ways that traffic flow can be improved, not least of which are removing the tolls, and handing the bridge and it's approaches over to people who's main concern is not trying to price people off the roads that they already pay for seven times over."
- The BBC reports "Groups urge halt to bridge plans" that the "Forthright Alliance" is opposing "plans" for a new Forth crossing. The Alliance is composed of 20 groups connected with the Greens, Public transport interests, or Edinburgh. Every time there is a proposal for a new bridge, they pop up and oppose it. What they really want of course is no action that would improve road capacity. Though in our view the Executive has no intention of building a new bridge anyway.
- The Scotsman reports the same story as the BBC and also repeats yesterday's spin about tolls not rising:- "Variable bridge toll charge rejected".
- The Herald reports that Jack McConnell wants to do more to "regenerate deprived areas". It only gives one practical examaple of his plans - "removal of tolls on the Erskine bridge". Does this mean that no areas in Fife are deprived?
- Bill Batchelor from Anstruther wants bridge tolls scrapped, his letter today in the Courier says: "... Tolls almost certainly cost more to collect and administer if you factor in the additional fuel consumed stopping, sitting in queues, and then accelerating off, and must surely worsen the environmental impact...."
Monday 27th Feb
- More spin from the authorities - they say that the tolls are not going to rise:- Evening News - "Bridge chiefs admit defeat in battle to raise toll to £4". The people are being treated with contempt, all they have done is to say that there will be no toll increases "yet".
- The Courier has part of a press release at the weekend:- "New Forth bridge a "fantasy"". Here is the full release.
- The Courier also has a letter from David Chalmers, Chairman of the Central and West Fife Branch, Federation of Small Businesses:-
"Sir,-I read with interest Steve Bargeton's piece in The Courier on Friday. Can I state quite categorically that I support not only the Fife MSPs, but also Fife Council, in calling for the end of tolls on both the Forth and Tay bridges.
I cannot support the position that tolls on the Tay Bridge should be removed, and the bridge adopted as part of the trunk road system, but that should not apply to the Forth Bridge. The bridge is long since paid for and with motorists paying over £44 billion a year in road-related taxes nationally, this short stretch of trunk road should have been toll free a long time ago.
The only reason for congestion at the south end of the Forth Bridge is because some short-sighted engineer thought that putting a lot of traffic up a hill to to a roundabout and traffic lights was the way to go. Hopefully, when the replacement for the A8000 is completed, most, if not all, of these problems will disappear, along with Mr. Smith's ill-founded argument.
This issue is seen predominantly as a Fife issue, but it is in fact an east and north of Scotland issue as well, and a continuing and unnecessary burden on all businesses and people who have cause to cross the bridge on a regular basis."
- This morning's Scotsman reports on Alistair Darling joining in the fall out with the Lib Dems - With proposed tolls on the Forth Bridge a crucial by-election issue, he pointed out that Tavish Scott, the transport minister, was a Liberal Democrat. The Lib Dems "are never there when it goes wrong - but are ready to claim the credit when it suits them". .
Sunday 26th Feb
The Sunday Times reports "Jack McConnell yesterday branded the Liberal Democrats as opportunistic and two-faced. The first minister accused his coalition partners of promising "one thing to one part of the country and another thing to another part". His comments reflect deep-seated anger among Labour ministers at losing the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election to the Lib Dems. He is furious that the Lib Dems won by claiming they would stop Labour increasing Forth Bridge tolls to £4, though the executive minister responsible for transport is a Lib Dem."
The Times also has an interview with Doctor Ladyman, the UK Roads Minister, where he makes the same complaint.
Saturday 25th Feb
- This morning's Scotsman has an odd story "Transport chief says Forth plans 'sabotaged'". FETA is complaining that the Executive will not let it introduce £4 tolls. We suspect this is more manipulation of the news. Fifers are to have the wool well and firmly pulled over their eyes, while the tolls are extended. The Executive do not have to approve the £4 toll yet. They are extending the existing (probably illegal) tolls, till they can bring in Road User Charging. Any bets that the charges will be £1 or £4?
- The spinmasters are earning their money. Yesterday they managed to get a story on the BBC "Forth bridge traffic on the rise". We are pleased that the BBC also reported that traffic was actually down on 2003.
- There is an odd story in the Courier "Call to scrap Forth transport authority". Our auld pal Willie, is apparently calling for FETA , the Forth bridge authority to be scrapped. Does this mean that he wants an end to tolls? No chance! This may just be a plan hatched up with the Lib Dem Transport Minister. They will replace FETA with a transport authority covering a bigger area. And how do transport authorities view river crossings and other roads? Only as a cash cow to subsidise trams etc. Will the people be fooled again?
- Last night's Evening Times reported on the good "no tolls" news for the Erskine bridge area.:- "SCRAPPING the Erskine Bridge tolls will create up to 20,000 jobs, a new study claims". The study was commissioned by Renfrewshire and West Dunbarton councils. The number may be an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that removing the frustration of the tolls will boost the local economy. The papers says that this will take effect on the 31st March, but an Executive spokesman say that it won't be announced till Easter (mid April). "Jobs boom for 20,000 if Erskine tolls axed"
Friday 24th Feb
- FETA the board that controls the Forth road bridge met this morning. This was possibly the last chance to stop the tolls and anti toll campaigners had urged Fife councillors and their representatives on FETA to "Fight for Fifers". In the event none of the four representatives from Fife (two Labour, one Liberal Democrat, and one SNP) made any attempt at the meeting to stop the tolls. The councillors were told that FETA had applied on the 21st December for the extension of the tolls, but there was no reaction from the councillors.
Tom Minogue from the NAAT was at the meeting and later said "Fifers can look forward to at least a decade of the authorities going through the motions of looking at building a new bridge, while Fife continues to be inflicted with tolls. All the talk is of a privately financed tolled bridge. Tolls would have to be about £7 to repay the private finance and fees. At this price, no one would use it, the banks would not finance it, and the bridge would never get off the drawing board."
Councillor Burns who masterminded Edinburgh's attempt to toll that city is on the FETA board, and Edinburgh has the casting vote. Enough said!
- The Herald reports on some of the reaction to the "news" that the Erskine bridge tolls will end but the Forth and Tay tolls will continue:- "End of road for Erskine Bridge tolls"
Thursday 23rd Feb
- More spin, though we are glad to see that the Courier has seen through it. The Evening News reports that Willie Rennie is riding to the rescue - what a laugh - he says he opposes £4 tolls, but doesn't say that his chums in Edinburgh are planning to keep Fifers under the chain of tolls:- Courier - "New Forth bridge moves a step closer" Evening News - "Forth bridge toll should be held at £1, ministers told" Courier - Comment from Steve Bargeton - "Fairness for Fife Drivers" (pdf file).
- Our Press Release.
- On the Scotsman website, on Thursday night, there is a story on this attributed to the Press Association, but here is the original source:-
- Meanwhile the Edinburgh Trolls are at it again:- BBC - "City traffic congestion warning". A year ago, the people of Edinburgh defeated tolls by a three to one vote. One of the many reasons for that defeat was that people believed that the Council were responsible for the congestion because of negative action such as road closures, and not enough sufficient positive action such as park and ride schemes. It is incredible that the Council is complaining about the congestion and hinting that it still wants to go down the Tolls road
Wednesday 22nd Feb
- The Evening News reports on our lobbying of Fife councillors:- "Help scrap tolls on road bridge, leaders urged".
- More in the Courier on yesterday's attempt by David Davidson MSP to try and block some of the road user charging regulations:- "Bid to block road charge rules fails".
The Transport Minister told MSPs that voting down the regulations "wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference" to the FETA proposals. One wonders why all but David Davidson accepted this incredible statement. This passes without comment in most reports, including the Scotsman, but Tom Gordon in the Herald lets the cat out of the bag:- "Though Mr Scott was technically correct to say the steps were not vital for the "specific" Forth proposal, he failed to explain they were needed to make charging schemes effective in general, including over the Forth. Many MSPs then mistakenly assumed the steps were wholly irrelevant to the Forth and ridiculed Mr Davidson for "failing to do his homework". Mr Scott later conceded the measures did cover the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, but tried to play down their impact as a purely "technical matter"".
Tuesday 21st Feb
- David Davidson MSP today continued to try and block some of the regulations that would be required if road user charging was implemented on the Forth road bridge and elsewhere. The BBC report that at the Holyrood meeting, the Transport Minister told MSPs that the regulations had nothing to do with toll increases on the Forth road bridge. The MSPs accepted this and passed the regulations by 7 votes to 1!!! BBC - "Charge powers 'no link to tolls'" Press Association - "MSPs reject Tory road charge stall".
Reports this morning:- Courier - Voting on congestion charging" Press Association - "Minister's bridge tolls challenge".
Here is a pdf file with more detail of the Courier story. On the right hand side there is an item on possible legal challenge to the existing tolls.
Monday 20th February
At the weekend we issued a press release it somehow missed getting into a paper. Here is what you missed!
Over the last week there has been further reporting (see Monday 13th) on the complaint by Tom Minogue, the anti Tolls candidate, that the electoral register used was faulty, and in particular that under 18's were voting.
- Last Tuesday this was reported in the Courier , who said that the SNP and Tories were also to complain.
- It was in Dunfermline Press on Thursday. Part of the report is what one of the under 18s said:- "When I got the card I thought I was still too young to vote but then you think they must know what they're doing. I was also receiving phone calls from different parties asking me what way I was going to vote and got loads of election stuff through the post addressed to me. I took Modern Studies at school so I know a wee bit about politics. My cousin's 17 and she got a card as well. When I go back to school after our exams I'll be able to find out if anyone else voted."
- Report in the Scotsman on Friday 17th "Girl, 17, voted illegally in vital Scots by-election".
- And the Evening News on Saturday 18th "Poll's second 17-year-old voter named".
Saturday 18th Feb
- Evening News - "No more tolls timewasting, says city leader" - Edinburgh Labour politicians seem to hate drivers, and one supects if they had their way, would close the Forth road bridge. They have said they will support a new bridge, but only if there is no increase in traffic! We now seem to have a bit of a squabble over £4 tolls, between the city leader and the councillor who is the boss of FETA.
Thursday 16th Feb
- Evening News - "Forth Bridge traffic up 4%" - Isn't it amazing that when traffic figures is up it is news! Traffic in January 2006 was up on January 2005, but was down on January 2004.
Wednesday 15th Feb
- Evening News - "Plan put forth to give bridge chief 6.4% pay rise".
Tuesday 14th Feb
- Scotsman - "Road-charging 'necessary' to meet emissions targets".
Monday 13th February
More of the same in this morning's papers. One new twist is a suggestion that Labour is so miffed with Lib Dems, that they may end the coalition.
The Courier has a brilliant letter and prediction for April 1st from Ian Sansom of Leven.
They also have a story about the 3 Labour MSPs - Helen Eadie, Marilyn Livingstone and Christine May - calling for no toll increase:- "MSPs urge minister to sink £4 tolls plan". We welcome this but wonder why they are asking for no increases, when the tolls are due to end? Does this mean they want tolls?
As a hat trick they also have the "Miracle on the Forth" - the bridge is not falling down after all:- "Lifeline for Forth bridge cables".
Tom Minogue had discovered that polling cards were sent out to under 18s, and believes that some of them will have mistakenly voted. This was featured in the Mail on Sunday. This is what Tom Minogue has since said.
The Sunday press reveal that they know little of the full extent to which the Fife voters were tricked and manipulated. Though there is some hint of what has gone on with Alan Cochrane in Scotland on Suday saying "the truth is that Willie Rennie and the Liberal Democrats fought an entirely fraudulent campaign based on a wholly bogus prospectus".
Sunday 12th February (By Election News is from here back to 17th January)
There is a lot of speculation about Gordon Brown, now that he has a Lib Dem for his MP. There is also a lot about the massive resources that the Lib Dems put in with "400 Lib Dem on the streets, many from England" and "nearly 500,000 pieces of literature were distributed by party HQ", and the clever way that the Lib Dems duped Jack McConnell into not opposing bridge tolls, and hid Tavish Scott (Lib Dem minister who is really responsible for tolls) during the campaign.
A small selection of the stories:- Scotland on Sunday - "Make the coalition chancers come clean" Sunday Herald - "Dunfermline could be the end of Blair ... and Brown" Scotland on Sunday - "Election loss that should have been impossible" Sunday Times - "A bridge too far" Sunday Herald - "DUNFERMLINE: THE TOWN WHICH GAVE LABOUR A BLOODY NOSE. NOW FOR THE RECRIMINATIONS".
Saturday 11th February
Here's another story that they saved till after the voting. It seems that the bridge is no longer falling down. Here is the story on the BBC, we asked them to add our comments. They didn't. "Study into Forth bridge dry-out"
Here is part of a press release that we issued:-
Fifers will now be astonished about a couple of stories that have emerged since they cast their vote on Thursday.
One story is about the A8000 / M9 spur road improvement. It was announced on Friday that the cost of this scheme has risen from £15 million in 2002 to £40 million now. Most people may wonder what this has to do with bridge tolls. The answer is that the bridge authority have agreed to be responsible for this and to pay for it from the tolls. The Executive have said that they will make a contribution, but the public does not know how many coppers the Executive will throw into the basket.
The other story is about the Forth road bridge having to be closed because of cable corrosion. Much was made of this during the election, and Gordon Brown and other politicians were falling over themselves promising a new bridge. In the meantime a consultants report into the problem, commissioned by the Scottish Executive from Flint & Neill has been kept under wraps. The report was submitted to the Executive in January, but they refused to let anti toll campaigners or the public know what it said. Now as soon as the by-election is over, it seems that the bridge may not be falling down after all. FETA, the bridge authority, now say - "The Forth Road Bridge has always enjoyed the very highest standards of safety and maintenance which are recognised across the world. We are confident that by being pro-active in our investigations, following a very thorough and systematic approach to operational
safety, we have caught the corrosion at a time when we can now do something about it."
Despite a massive campaign, over half the electorate did not vote. If those who voted had known all
the facts about the bridge and tolls, would anybody have paid attention to the promises of politicians and bothered to vote?"
The Saturday papers are full of analysis of the election with many saying that the Lib Dems won because they "campaigned strongly on the issue of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge". This may be true, but it is not true that the Lib Dems oppose the tolls, the truth is the opposite, and this was hidden from the voters. The Lib Dems got away with it, because the other parties could not expose the Lib Dems, without revealing their own support for tolls. A sad time for democracy, and it highlights how what we read in the papers and see on TV is spun, managed and manipulated by politicians.
Here is a small selection of the many reports, though you won't see anything about how the voters were tricked:-
Scotsman - "Defeated Labour in bitter blame game" Scotsman - "Liberal Democrats' tour de force was planned down to a tea" Scotsman - "How wheels came off Labour's bandwagon" Telegraph - "Lib Dems profit from anti-politics mood"
Friday 10th February
Here's one that they saved till after the voting. The Forth bridge tolls are being used to pay for the A8000 scheme in Lothian. The cost has now escalated from £15 million in 2002 to £40 million now. This is par for the course when authorities have tolls money in their pocket. It is not clear how much of the £40 million will come from the tolls. We note that the RAC Foundation give their view on this, but they are a strong supporter of tolls. You will see the views of those who oppose the tolls, in the invisible print. Evening News - "Bridge link cost soars by £4m"
Tom Minogue reflecting on last night's result said that it was difficult for his party as all the other party's stole his policies, and even some of his lines! In door to door canvassing and on the hustings, they said that they were working towards removing the tolls. If only this was true! They are doing the opposite - the tolls are due to end on the 31st March, but they hope that you won't notice!
Tom also pointed to the massive resources that the other parties had, spending up to £100,000, scores of MPS and MSPs used as highly paid (by the taxpayer) canvassers, and with up to 10 mailings to every house, whereas the No Tolls party could only mail one in ten of the voters.
There has been a lot more news and comment about the result. This is from the Times - Angus Macleod, their Scottish Correspondent, like many others says that this result is a blow for Gordon Brown he goes on- "This by-election was decided more on local issues than national issues and there were some major issues to talk about - tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, the state of Dunfermline town centre and the future of a local hospital. But oddly enough, all these issues are devolved to the Scottish Executive, and the irony of the result is that the Lib Dems - who are in partnership with Labour in Edinburgh - got none of the blame and all the protest vote." "Brown leadership credentials dented"
It could hardly have been a more bizarre result, in a by-election dominated by tolls, the voters of Fife turned away from Labour and voted for the party that is the keenest to keep Fife chained by tolls. Was this a vote for tolls, or does it show that you really can can fool all the people all the time? We wonder how many days it will be before the Lib Dem Transport Minister signs the Order to extend the tolls: "Lib Dems deliver blow to Labour" Press Association - "Lib Dems in shock by-election win" BBC - "Lib Dem's bombshell by-election".
Alistair Darling on the Today programme said the campaign had been dominated by plans to quadruple the tolls on the Forth road bridge, and went on- " "It was a very bad result for us, let's make no bones about it. This was a safe seat, we should not have lost it. We were the Government party, people coalesced around the Liberals, they wanted to send a very clear message. We have got to learn from that and make sure that we don't make that mistake again." Unfortunately as the voters were duped, it is not clear what the message is. What a pity that Fifers could not have had a proper vote on the Tolls issue.
Thank you to the 374 Fifers who saw through the spin and voted for Tom Minogue, who issued this statement:-
"The first thing I would like to place on record now that the people of Dunfermline and West Fife have spoken, is my congratulations to Willie Rennie on being elected member of Parliament for the Dunfermline and West Fife constituency.
It is heartening to see that Labour have been found out in Fife and their supposed Fiefdom is now exposed as a myth.
As for our own party I consider that taking all things into account we have acquitted ourselves well to poll 374 votes, we finished in front of one UK party (UKIP) and were not too far behind the Scottish Socialist Party candidate John McAllion who in anyone's view is one of the most experienced and respected politicians in Scotland.
To achieve over 1% of the vote might not seem much but we polled 12% of what the Conservative candidate polled and this is no mean achievement when one considers that today marks the second week in existence for the Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party-compare this with our opponents in the major parties who count their age in hundreds of years-we have had to learn the ropes in a short space of time. We cannot complain about that as we knew this when we in NAAT Scotland decided to stand.
What we did not know was that the National Media in the form of TV, Radio, and the Press would give us and the other four other "minor" candidates virtually no platform on which to get our message across. I took this up with Michael Crick on BBC Newsnight and he said that they (the media) had to make a judgement on which parties were most likely to win. I suppose the extension to this argument is that in the next election the BBC may only interview who they reckon will be the winner during the campaign. This is sad and does not reflect well on our so called enlightened democracy. I must, though, thank the local and regional newspapers for giving us some opportunity to get our message across.
At the risk of appearing churlish I would also take this opportunity of criticising in the strongest possible terms the Labour Government for calling this election only a matter of days after the death of the previous MP. Apart from showing little respect for their dead colleague this move gave a massive advantage to the major parties whose party machines are geared to spring into action, and most of all to their own party-but the fast track election made it hard for the small parties and harder still for us who had to first set-up a party to contest the election. However now that we are set-up and have some experience of how an election works be sure that this experience will not be wasted-we will contest the next election in this constituency on the same manifesto of abolishing tolls and other local issues. We shall return.
But now our first priority is to lobby MSP's to put pressure on the Scottish Executive not to extend the Tolling Order which as part of the 1958 Act allows a bridge joint board to collect tolls after the period by which they should have expired.
Finally I would like to thank the returning officer and his staff for their assistance and guidance and of course all who have taken part in this hasty election, but in most cases these officials and staff are paid for their efforts. So most of my praise must go to my own supporters who have sacrificed their leisure time and worked tirelessly to compress a month's work into a two week period. To me, they were the real winners in this election."
Thursday 9th February
At midnight the BBC reported that turnout was only 49%, which seems to point to a close result: "Parties await by-election result".
Just before polls closed, Glasgow's Evening Times put "Abolish the Forth Bridge Tolls Party" into the "also rans". If so it may not be unconnected with the way the news media have let the main parties mislead the voters on the Tolls issue.
The BBC at 6 o'clock reported that voting had been slow, but that there had been a big rise in postal votes to 6,700. It is highly likley that the majority will be less than this, yet the postal votes are largely organised by the big party machines.
The authorities are still going for toll increases, but will keep up their sleeves for as long as possible the amount of the increase. Fife Liberal Democrat councillor, Tony Martin, seems to think that £3 is fair: Report in Fife Herald & Post.
The main parties completely failed to agree to do anything at all to see that tolls are not extended past the 31st March, when they are due to end. Despite this some of the of the party workers at the polling stations today are saying that they want the tolls abolished and that is their party's ultimate goal. Unfortunately a lot of voters will be duped by this and vote for parties that have not the least intention of removing this burden. If they want to keep tolls on Fife, why don't they admit the truth to the voters? There is only one Party that wants the tolls removed and that is the "Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party".
Report in tonight's Evening News:- "Labour braced for vote cut as polls open". We are pleased to see that they mentioned last night's demo!
At midday, Labour issued a Press Release. It says "Catherine Stihler has already launched a campaign for a second road bridge across the Forth and succeeded in getting the proposed £4 road toll scrapped. This is my community. I have listened, I know what people are concerned about and I will fight for them." Really Catherine? Why then did you not tell the people what your views are on removing the tolls? Did you not hear them asking?
Today is decision day for voters in Dunfermline and West Fife. Will they have been swayed by the big party machines or will they cast a vote on one issue where it will send a message to the politicians in Edinburgh and London?
The Herald reports that the tolls, the hospital, and the town centre dominated the election. Alistair Darling says "I ask everyone to preserve her memory by voting for Labour. Do it for Rachel" "All to fight for as parties go under orders".
The Daily Record headline says "LABOUR FEAR BY-ELECTION BLOW". While Reuters report "Labour favourite for Dunfermline by-election".
Telegraph and other papers report that yesterday at Prime Minister's Question Time, Tony Blair produced a Tory leaflet from the by-election and mocked David Cameron for his claim to be a "liberal Conservative".
Press Association story says "Toll levels on the Forth road bridge, as well as its long-term future, have loomed large in the campaign", but concentrates on the main party candidates, none of whom say they support the removal of tolls.
The Courier has a full report and a nice picture of the Lib Dem candidate on top of the bridge. Is he going to do some bungee jumping? "By-election too close to call on D-Day".
Apart from a very good write up by the Courier the papers seem to have turned a blind eye to yesterday's demonstration on the bridge. Do the establishment not want the voters reminded that the tolls are due to end on the 31st March?
This is the report that you will not see in most of the papers:-
On the eve of the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, anti Toll campaigners staged a demonstration against the tolls on the Forth road bridge. They marched across the bridge carrying banners at 4 o'clock (Wednesday afternoon) and tried to lay a wreath at the offices of FETA who control the bridge.
The marchers were accompanied by Tom Minogue, a veteran anti toll campaigner and candidate for the Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party. They were also accompanied by a "Grim Reaper" and a "Skeleton" to reflect the impact that tolls have on the Fife economy.
There were policemen and several police cars in attendance, which brought back memories of what happened on Skye.
There was a chorus of car horn honking as the marchers crossed the bridge and attempted to make a symbolic gesture by having a 6-year old from Kirkcaldy (home of Gordon Brown) hand in a bunch of flowers and a cross to symbolise the death of the Fife economy through tolls. This plan however was halted by bridge authority employees who barred the young girl's way and despite the intervention of Mr Minogue who made representations to officials, the protesters were kept on the public footpath and not allowed to set foot on the steps leading to the General Manager's office or hand over the wreath.
The tolls on the Forth bridge which were originally to stop in 1995 are currently due to end on the 31st March. But it is widely believed that after the Dunfermline by-election, the Labour / Lib Dem Executive will make a Ministerial Order that the tolls be extended. FETA, the bridge authority, have asked for this and at the same time also applied for an eventual increase in the tolls of up to £4.
Lorna Gratton, a spokeswoman for the campaigners, said -
"Politicians have been falling over themselves to give worthless promises that they will not increase the tolls.
We don't want promises of no increases, we want an end to tolls which divide people from their work and families.
The main parties may have successfully misled the voters in the by-election, but Fifers will soon learn the truth.
We will fight on in the spirit of the people of Skye."
Wednesday 8th February
Like the voters of Dunfermline, we will be glad when this election is over and we are freed from the nauseating spin from the main parties. In tonight's papers it is the turn of the Lib Dems. It is implied that their policy will be different to Labour on the question of the tolls, and that they are poised to win the seat from Labour. Whoever wins, we will see how long it takes Lib Dem Tavish Scott to sign the Order extending the tolls. Will the papers then report betrayal - or will they ignore it?
We have been asking Fife councillors to support the removal of tolls. Some of them do, and have told us so. Good for them! But unfortunately the vast majority of Fife councillors seem to have their lips sealed when it comes to the tolls, and have done nothing to discourage the Labour / Lib Dem Executive from keeping tolls that they know are due to end on the 31st March. This is an open letter that we sent to Fife councillors yesterday.
There has been a whirlwind of press releases from the SNP. In one they say "People in Fife are also still concerned about the Labour and LibDem proposal to increase the Forth Road Bridge Tolls, and have not been fooled by Labour's attempts to pull the wool over their eyes." We hope that the voters are not fooled by any of the main party candidates. All of them, including the SNP candidate, support keeping the tolls.
The BBC reports on the "Final push for by-election votes". It says "The Liberal Democrats say they have set the agenda on local issues like bridge tolls". We agree 100%. The motion to ask the Executive to extend the tolls past 31st March and increase them to £4 was only carried because two of the Liberal Democrats voted for it. So, thank you, Lib Dems!
Paul Johnston from Dunfermline on BBC Online says that he is being hounded by the parties and that most of their concerns are not what is really important (with the exception of tolls, that is!): "By-election avoids real concerns".
Oh dear! The Herald has a long piece about the by-election. It manages to talk about the tolls without mentioning Tom Minogue and gives the impression that the other parties will remove tolls! The spin doctors are doing well. The Herald also says that the bridge is "now corroding beyond repair", so we needn't wait for the consultants report that the Executive are keeping secret till after the Election - or is this more spin and the report will say something different?
Meanwhile back in Edinburgh, archaeologists are trying to unearth the secrets of the old Tollbooth:- Evening News - "Radar set to unearth Mile secrets"
Tuesday 7th February
Anti toll campaigners have planned a demonstration starting at 4 o'clock on Wednesday 8th afternoon. They are meeting on the Fife side of the bridge at the bus stop on the other side of the Corus Hotel, and plan to march across the bridge and lay a wreath at the offices of FETA who control the bridge.
If you are able to attend, please come along. And in any case please tell anyone else who might be able to go.
Lorna Gratton, a spokeswoman for the campaigners, said - "Politicians are falling over themselves to give worthless promises that they will not increase the tolls. We don't want promises of no increases, we want an end to tolls which should have stopped in 1995. The tolls not only divide people from their work, they divide families."
This is another bit of spin that was in Monday night's Evening News, but we missed it: "Ministers urged to throw out Forth Bridge toll increase scheme". They must rely on people getting no further than the headline. Who is it that has urged the minister? Are people expected to believe that the same Labour and Lib Dem councillors who voted for this are now urging that the Minister reject what they asked for?
"Report from Courier of last night's meeting". Many of the candidates claimed to support the removal of the tolls. You can judge from the previous statements of their parties how they seem to have had a sudden conversion. We are disappointed that the two main candidates had their lips sealed - Catherine Stihler and Willie Rennie. Could this be because they already know that the Labour /Lib Dem run Executive is about to extend the tolls on Fifers? Why don't they let us all in on their secret.
This morning's Herald refers to tolls as "the biggest issue of the campaign so far" and following yesterday's statement from Alistair Darling, the SNP are complaining that Westminster won't hand over up to £1 billion for a new bridge:- Press Association - "Darling: no new cash for bridge".
Perhaps SNP can say why they want £1 billion for a new bridge, but they don't want the Scottish Executive to bear the £12 million cost of the tolls as they don't want public cash to be "ladled out to all and sundry"
The Scotsman has a further report on this, with the Executive implying that they will pay for a new bridge "Darling rules out extra Westminster cash to build new Forth bridge". Really? Is anyone daft enough to believe this?
Monday 6th February
Tonight just a little bit of the truth seems to have escaped - Alistair Darling says that there will be no money from Westminster to build a new bridge:- Press Association - "Question mark over bridge funding".
We don't know who was daft enough anyway, to believe that Gordon was going to cough up any money. But no doubt Labour and the other parties are hoping that enough people are daft enough to still believe that they would get a new bridge without massive tolls.
Both Gordon and the Executive are of course rolling in money. But if they are too tight fisted to give up the tolls of £11 million, what chance is there that they will pay for a bridge costing around £700 million?
The Courier has a report on the by-election: "Politicians pound the pavements
". It quotes the SNP saying "the Lib Dems and Labour should come clean over proposals to increase tolls on the Forth Road Bridge". We quite agree, and how about the SNP coming clean and admitting that they are opposed to the removal of the tolls.
Elsewhere in the Courier, there is a complaint about all the MPs canvassing in the by-election, when they are being paid to do a job elesewhere.
Fantasies from the rest of this morning's papers:-
The Herald says that the Scottish Socialist party candidate is campaigning against the tolls. The fact is that the SSP by-election campaign launch speech implied that politicians promising not to increase tolls are just buying the votes of "disgruntled commuters" and gave the impression that he not only does not support the removal of tolls, he would like to see them increased. It is not clear what current official SSP tolls policy is on removing any tolls, the only reference to tolls in their last manifesto (2004 European election) was that they want higher tolls for lorries.
The Scotsman has more "promises" from Gordon Brown that there will be a new bridge:- "Chancellor steps back into row over new bridge".
Sunday 5th February
The news media are still trying to keep the facts on the tolls from the people of Scotland. We hope that the people of Fife will know better.
Scotland on Sunday covers the by-election and the tolls. It naturally does not mention that the tolls are due to end and that there is a No Tolls candidate. It says that those who are against the tolls will vote SNP. Voters who vote SNP for this reason will have been duped, as the SNP want to keep the tolls.
The Sunday Times reports that Labour are losing ground, despite Gordon and Jack now pretending to be as one on the question of Forth bridge tolls. The paper also says that Labour voters are switching to Lib Dem and SNP. If this is true, then voters will just be switching from one party that wants tolls to another. The Lib Dems voted for the £4 increase and the SNP have said that they will keep tolls as they don't want public cash to be "ladled out to all and sundry".
The Sunday Mail probably beats the rest for trying to fool the Fife voters with it's headline "Brown: I'll Build Forth Road Bridge II".
Here is a letter that we sent that didn't get into the papers!
"The carpetbaggers have arrived in Dunfermline and they are promising the earth including "no toll increases". But the tolls on the Forth Road bridge are actually due to end on the 31st March, and the main parties are like the three wise monkeys when it comes to revealing this fact.
When the Brown, Cameron and Kennedy circuses arrived, no one asked Gordon why he once said "Charging of tolls is totally indefensible on the grounds of logic, equity and economic rationality" and now all he can do is say that tolls will be less than £4.
Neither was David asked why his party inflicted all these tolls on us in the first place, and their main proposal now seems to be another PFI bridge, like Skye.
Nor did anyone ask Charles why he welcomed the removal of the Skye tolls in his own constituency, and yet two of the Lib Dem councillors on the Forth bridge board joined in with Labour councillors to apply for the tolls to be extended past 31st March and increased to £4.
We will perhaps see on Thursday, whether the voters have been kept in sufficient ignorance, and will be duped into voting for those who intend to keep this toll tax on Fife."
Saturday 4th February
The authorities are still treating Fife voters with contempt. The tolls on the Forth road bridge are due to end on the 31st March, but most of the news media seem to be reluctant to reveal the conspiracy to hide this from the people. Instead all we hear is promises that there will be no toll increases. The latest twist is that there is a suggestion that tolls will be no more than £3! Evening News - "Motorists face paying £3 toll to cross the Forth Road Bridge".
There is a Press Association story "Technologies conferences announced" where Gordon Brown (who once campaigned to remove tolls) yet again promises that there will be no £4 toll. What will it be then, Gordon? £3.99?
The Evening News also has an Opinion piece "'There has been little singing from the same hymn sheet'" which as always ignores the fact that the tolls are due to stop.
The BBC reported last night that there has been an increase in applications for a postal vote - from 5,000 to 6,700. There was almost nothing in this morning's news about the election.
Friday 3rd February
Section below is what was in this morning's papers. Here is what we think they should have said!
The heavyweights from London, including George Brown, David Cameron and Charles Kennedy have all joined in the battle for the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election as if it was a practice run for a General election. But one of the biggest issues for the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife is the tolls on the Forth road bridge. On this issue, most of the candidates seem to be trying to pull the wool over voters eyes.
The tolls on the Forth bridge are due to end on the 31st March, unless Tavish Scott, the Scottish Transport Minister and the rest of the Scottish Executive decide to extend them. A request for them to do so was made by "FETA", the bridge authority, at it's last meeting at the end of November. That request was endorsed by 4 of the Labour local councillors and by the only Lib Dem local councillor on the board. There were 5 votes against this, but it was passed by the casting vote of the Labour chairman. The bridge board also decided that they wanted to introduce a "road user charging" scheme with the existing £1 tolls increasing by up to £4.
Since the announcement of the by-election there have been a flurry of statements from the main parties saying that they are opposed to any toll increases and many of the parties are promising that they will build a new bridge.
These statements are in effect admissions that the main political parties intend to support the extension of tolls. The promises of no toll increases are like saying to a prisoner at the end of
their sentence that they will not be released, but that their prison conditions will not be made worse. They are promises that can not be trusted as at the Inquiry that was held before the last toll increase (on 1st May) the only objectors present were Tom Minogue, George Campbell "the Lone Protestor", and the National Alliance Against Tolls. None of the politicians from any of the parties lifted even a little finger to stop the increase. The NAAT is therefore supporting Tom Minogue, a lifelong Fifer and candidate for the Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls party.
The Alliance have been monitoring the statements of the various parties on the tolls question. When we asked Catherine Stihler, the Labour candidate, whether she supported the removal of tolls, her office said "this is very much part of her campaign". When we queried this, her office said that this statement was a mistake and have not revealed what she really thinks. Ms Stihler seems to be following in the footsteps of Gordon Brown. When the Prime Minister in waiting was just a humble opposition MP, he said "Charging of tolls is totally indefensible on the grounds of logic, equity and economic rationality ... they are excessive and unreasonable ... why are the benefits of the Forth Road Bridge any more exceptional than those of the Kessock or Ballachulish Bridges, neither of which had tolls?". Perhaps Gordon Brown could explain why he has since abandoned his fellow Fifers?
When the Alliance asked the Lib Dem candidate, Willie Rennie, about the tolls, he told us that he thinks that £4 tolls are "punitive". But he doesn't explain why Lib Dems voted for £4 tolls, or why he supports keeping the tolls. Now that Charles Kennedy is in Fife, it highlights the contrast between the Lib Dem position on the Forth
bridge tolls, and Mr Kennedy's position on the Skye bridge tolls. When the tolls were removed there just over 12 months ago, Charles Kennedy warmly welcomed it. We wonder how he will justify to the voters supporting the removal of tolls in his own constituency, but wanting to keep them in Fife?
The SNP candidate, Douglas Chapman, has not replied to our questions, but has said elsewhere that "£1 is enough". Fergus Ewing, the SNP Transport spokesman, has answered some of the Alliance questions and has said that the SNP refuse to support the removal of the tolls, because they don't want "more public cash to be ladled out to all and sundry". This is a strange statement, when all three of Scotland's tolls (Forth, Erskine and Tay) only collect some £21 million a year, compared with this year's Executive budget of £27 billion or the £520 billion in UK taxes that Gordon Brown collects.
The tolls on the Erskine bridge over the Clyde, are also due to the end this year (1st July) but if the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife effectively vote to keep the tolls, there must be a strong chance that the West of Scotland will not be freed from tolls.
The Scottish Tories have suggested that a new privately financed Forth bridge is built and that then tolls could be removed from the existing Forth road bridge. Have the politicians so soon forgotten the suffering of the people of Skye? Why should Fifers have the burden of another 10 years or so of tolls? And does anyone believe that a private company is going to build a private bridge that would need tolls of about £7, when there is supposedly an untolled bridge alongside?
Most of this morning's papers feature the election, but they concentrate on the "big guns" (Brown, Cameron and Kennedy) and barely mention the tolls issue concerning the voters, and certainly ignore all the points above.
The Scotsman mainly concentrates on the sex appeal of David Cameron, but does mention that neither the Scottish Executive nor the bridge authority know what Gordon Brown was talking about, when yesterday he said that the £4 toll was going to be scrapped in a few days "Brown fuels Forth bridge tolls row".
The Daily Telegraph concentrates on the Tories chances, and avoids the tolls issue. The Guardian and a lot of the papers concentrate on Charles Kennedy, but don't refer to his support for keeping tolls on Fife, while he welcomed the removal of tolls in his own constituency.
The report in the Independent, also manages to avoid mentioning the tolls. But you may be interested in what Billy Johnston, a former dockyard worker thinks, or the comment of Margaret Thomson - "Unfortunately, Labour will probably win because it is so ingrained here that if they put a monkey up with a red rosette it would win." "A warm welcome for Kennedy's comeback".
The Herald also concentrates on "big guns" but in a separate piece it does mention the tolls while avoiding reference to Tom Minogue, the anti tolls candidate: "Contest shifts up a gear in race to the finish"
The Times gives plenty of space to the big three, but goes on to mention 8 key facts about the by-election - Yes, as you probably guessed it does not mention the tolls.
Thursday 2nd February
The Labour Party are really showing what they think of the intelligence of Fifers - Gordon Brown is now saying that the bridge authority will reverse it's decision to go for £4 tolls. Fast work, Gordon. And how fast will they come back, after the election? Press Association - "Brown: Toll plans scrapped in days". BBC - "Kennedy joins by-election drive"
The Lib Dems bring in Charles Kennedy: BBC - "Kennedy joins by-election drive" Press Association - "Kennedy returns to lure votes". The biggest issue in this by-election has been the Forth bridge tolls. In December 2004, when the Skye bridge tolls were removed the local Westminster MP issued a press release warmly welcoming it and said that it was "a new economic and social opportunity for all users of the Skye bridge." That MP was Charles Kennedy. Perhaps when he is talking to the people of Fife, he can explain why his party opposes the removal of tolls on Fifers?
The press release from 21 December 2004 has disappeared from the Scottish Liberal Democrats web site. Were they embarassed by it? Fortunately there is still a version of it on the LIb Dems web site in London:- "KENNEDY WELCOMES SCRAPPING OF SKYE "BRIGDE" TOLLS".
More politicing from the main parties, who want to ignore the issues that concern Fifers, before scurrying back to London: The Herald - "Big names shop for votes"
It is also reported that Sean Connery (occasional supporter of SNP) is lashing out at all and sundry including Gordon Brown over his "interference on the Forth Bridge". This well known agent does not reveal his thoughts on the Forth bridge. Is he aware that SNP policy is to keep the tolls?
There is some more shameless spin on the need for a new bridge. The Press Association report that the Minister has received an engineer's report on the corrosion of the bridge cables. The story says that "ministers would consider the report and make a decision on it this month or early next month".
We also asked the Executive about this on Tuesday, as the report was to have been available by then. The answer that we got was that it would be several weeks before the report and any conclusions of the Minister would be released. This in effect means that the contents of the report will be kept a secret till after the by-election. By then it won't matter - the politicians can go ahead with toll increases and abandon talk of a new bridge. Will the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife fall for this? Scotsman - "Ministers consider bridge report".
Report by Robbie McGregor in this week's Fife's Herald and Post on Tom Minogue taking on the party establishment
The Westminster government was defeated in the Commons last night. According to reports in various papers, this was because 20 to 25 Labour MPs had ben sent to Fife to help in the by-election camapaign. Would it not be easier to get rid of the hated tolls?
According to the Herald, Alex Salmond is concerned that the SMP will do badly in the by-election and "he may keep a school-style register of supporters attendance and publish it to humiliate the skivers".
The BBC reports that Fife Chamber of Commerce want a new Forth road bridge.
The Chamber also don't want any toll increases. By implication, their members are quite happy to pay existing tolls. Why? "New bridge campaign given boost". This is a comment that we sent to the BBC but did not use:-
"If a new bridge is needed for any reason, then it is a non starter if it is tolled. We have calculated that a new privately financed bridge would have to charge tolls of £7. At that price no one would use it. The banks would realise that they would never get their money back and the bridge would not be built. The priority should be the lifting of tolls on the present bridge. Tolls which are currently due to end on the 31st March, but which it is suspected the politicians want to keep."
David Davidson, a Tory MSP, is trying to block the Road User Charge regulations. The Scottish Executive claim that these regulations are nothing to do with the proposed toll increases.: Scotsman / PA - "Tory bid to block congestion charge".
FETA, the bridge authority, certainly seem to be getting good value from the tolls money that is spent on spin. Today they have another story in the Scotsman about how the world will come to an end, if they are not given £4 tolls: "Bar on £4 bridge toll puts traffic schemes in jeopardy". Will any Scot fall for all this?
Report in the Courier about yesterday's meeting of the Public Petitions Cttee, where Tom Minogue was forced to leave: "Row over tolls 'political stunt'". The Labour Party spin machine is working overtime to give the impression that they are in favour of scrapping the tolls - they should be, but the "Brown" petition that seems to have been inspired by them, only asks that tolls not be increased! The Courier also quotes the SSP candidate saying that tolls "hit the poorest the hardest." - We quite agree, what a pity that the SSP does not support removing these tolls!
The Herald's Political Editor writes an article about the bridge that reads as if it was written by the Labour Party. He even suggests a statue be erected to Helen Eadie, Labour MSP. He goes on to also suggest tolling a lot more of Scotland's roads: "What will it take to bridge the divide?".
The Herald reports that a Fife Tory councillor is to go. He was the most vocal of the supporters of bridge tolls: "Senior Tory councillor to quit over 'frustration' at leadership". What a pity that all the other other politicians who support the tolls (but keep quiet about it) don't join him!
More Labour by-election spin, this time over jobs at Rosyth, which they say are at risk if SNP win: Press Association / Scotsman "Reid pledge over dockyard's future".
Tom Minogue fighting for "No Tolls" was made to leave today's meeting of the MSPs of the Public Petitions Committee. He was protesting about the stage management by Labour: Tom's Official letter of complaint Press Association / Scotsman "Minogue ejected from toll meeting".
The SNP say that they will raise at Westminster, the "interference" in the tolls issue by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. They claim that "Every vote for Labour and the Lib Dems is a green light to hike up the tolls after the election, whilst every vote for the SNP is a vote against an increase in the tolls." That may be half true. But the only way that voters can chose "No Tolls" is to "Vote Minogue". SNP Press Release.
The Public Petitions Cttee is sitting today in Dunfermline rather than Edinburgh. They will be hearing a petition against the bridge tolls: BBC - "Committee visit 'a coincidence'". We don't know anything about the petitioner, as far as we know he has not taken any interest in the tolls before. If you look at the additional info lodged with his petition, he seems to put forward compelling arguments for tolls being removed completely, but all he asks is for no £4 increases! FETA agreed to go for £4 tolls at the end of November, so if he objects to £4 tolls why did he not put his petition in before????
This is not the only mystery petition. There was a lot of publicity a week ago for Willie Rennie and his petition against the tolls. What petition was this, did any one see it? There was publicity before Xmas in the west of Scotland, for another petition against tolls. We wonder if anyone saw it? Another petition that got a lot of publicity was the one calling for a new Forth road bridge. But was it a coincidence that this was timed to distract attention away from the tolls issue? And why does the one real anti tolls petition not get publicity?????
The Herald reports that Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce is pressing the Executive to remove the tolls from the Erskine Bridge. There are rumours that the tolls (which should end on 1 July anyway) will be removed after the by-election. That will leave Fife as the only area in Scotland that has to suffer from tolls: "Businesses press ministers to drop tolls on Erskine bridge".
Yesterday's Leader in the Observer pointed out that the amount of traffic on British roads is increasing (really?), but the roads space isn't (well I never!). In fact they have just found out that they have 5,000 less kilometres of road than they thought that they had. The paper then goes on to criticise Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling for opposing toll increases on the Forth bridge. According to the Observer, the answer to the missing roads is - tolls: "A government on the road to nowhere".
Opinion in Scotland on Sunday's on the tolls issue and Gordon: "Not even an election can bridge the gap between Gordon and Jack". The paper also has a humorous account from Mungo McKay: "Alistair's no Darling on Jack's patch"
The Herald on Sunday says that the selection of the Labour candidate was fixed: "Labour accused of 'fix' over candidate".
The Sunday Times says that the bridge will be saved by dehumidification equipment: "Giant hair dryers to save Forth bridge".
Yesterday's Scotsman says that the Forthright Alliance is opposing proposals for a new bridge: "Activists to oppose plans for new Forth road bridge". The news is not really that they oppose plans for a new bridge - that is the only reason for their existence. The news is that this alliance of anti roads groups has relaunched it's campaign. The Alliance has close links to the pro tolls lobby and the Edinburgh establishment, so even if a new bridge is needed, it will be very hard to get it built - unless it is one where cars and lorries are banned or discouraged by extortionate tolls!
John Knox, the BBC's political reporter for Scotland, on Friday night said that the tolls issue has dominated both the by-election and Holyrood: "It's Labour's bridge over troubled water".
On Friday night, we had contradictory reports as to whether there will soon be a decision on a new bridge: Evening Times - "New Forth bridge decision 'in weeks'"
Evening News - "Easter decision on new Forth bridge would be 'premature'".
Alistair Darling denies that today's Business Summit was an election stunt and says that jobs are the key issue: Scotsman / PA - "Darling denies by-election stunt". Why does he not call for the removal of tolls? It is widely recognised that areas with tolls are at an economic disadvantage, as businesses where transport is important don't want the costs, hassle and queues that are associated with tolls.
More spin from the authorities saying that the Forth bridge will have to close because of corrosion. It is claimed that even if it doesn't have to close permanently, it will be shut to traffic for 3 years while they try and replace the cables:- Scotsman - "Spend £500m or face three years with no bridge". If this spin is confirmed, then what a sorry state of affairs, a full public Inquiry must be held on how this has happened.
Alistair Darling is accused by Lib Dems of interfering in Scotland matters- Scotsman / PA - "Business summit in jobs axe area" Scotsman / PA - "Darling accused of using sacked staff as pawns". There is a similar report in the Herald- "'Keep out' warning for Westminster".
List of candidates for the election- BBC - "By-election candidates announced" Press Association / Scotsman - "Nine stand in by-election".
Politicians at Holyrood and Westminster are falling over themselves to promise no toll increases and new bridges.
But they are all turning a blind eye to the fact that tolls on the existing Forth bridge are due to end on 31st March unless the politicians extend them.
They are in effect telling a prisoner at the end of his gaol sentence that they have lost the keys to his cell, but they are not going to charge him any more for his bread and water:- Report from this morning's Herald of yesterday's discussion at Holyrood- "McConnell resolute as Forth bridge farrago takes its toll", and report last night on the BBC- "Minister defiant on bridge issues".
Recation to job losses at Lexmark printer plant in Rosyth- BBC - "Job cuts become by-election issue".
The SNP accuse Gordon Brown of lying about bridge tolls, according to a Press Association report:- Scotsman - "Brown accused of bridge tolls 'lie'". The report is based on a SNP press release which also said:- "Clearly the Labour and LibDem proposal to increase tolls is very much alive and kicking. We will continue to campaign hard to stop the increases. Every vote for the SNP on February 9 is a vote against an increase in the tolls. Every vote for Labour and the LibDems is a green light to hike up the tolls after the election.". The reality is that based on what all the main candidates have said, a vote for them, is a vote to keep tolls, with the risk that they can put them up when they like.
Press Association report of today's discussion on the issue of the Forth bridge at Holyrood:- Scotsman - "Scott: MSPs will decide on bridge"
The Press Association say that the Tories are to raise the issue of the Forth bridge at Holyrood:- Scotsman - "Tories to debate Forth bridge". Will there be any MSPs who call for the tolls to be scrapped?
This morning's Scotsman has the continuing bickering of the politicians over the Forth bridge. Lawrence Marshall, the Edinburgh Labour councillor who used his casting vote in favour of £4 tolls, attacks Alistair Darling, the UK Labour Transport secretary. The Scotsman also says that today Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem Transport Minister, will attack Alistair:- "Time running out for new bridge"
The Press Association reports Evening News - "Tory call for privately run bridge" that the Tory party leader, Annabel Goldie, has called for the existing Forth bridge to be toll free! BUT there is a catch. She says that they should first build a new Forth road bridge which would be privately financed and tolled. This is of course what would happen anyway, as all of the political parties try and avoid spending while extorting more money from road users. But can the Tory leader suggest what private firm is so stupid that it would build a new bridge, right next to one with no tolls on? Or would the existing bridge be reserved for tandems, horse drawn buggies, and politicians? And if she thinks that the M6 Toll (a Tory scheme, but backed by Labour) is a success, then she should look at our M6 pages
Yesterday at Westminster, the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, asked:- "Which government minister is responsible for responding to the ridiculous proposal from Labour and Liberal councillors on the Forth bridge authority to increase the tolls to a massive £4." UK Transport (and Scotland) Secretary, Alistair Darling, replied "Nationalists and Liberals are fighting each other for second place in this byelection. Given it's now clear that the existing Forth Bridge is not going to last as long as people thought and that therefore it would be absolutely ridiculous were Fife left without a bridge. The only party who say they are against are the Greens and it's the SNP who want to go into coalition with the Greens so if you vote SNP or Green there wouldn't be a replacement bridge."
Also yesterday, Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, said that they will start deciding the future of the Forth road bridge at the end of the month and "We hope to make decisions very quickly thereafter." He also said that he expected to get a report at the end of January. We believe this is a report on whether the existing bridge is really falling down.
More from the Herald on the confusion over whether Labour will increase the tolls or not "Labour rift as McConnell defies Brown on Forth tolls"
More from the Scotsman on the Labour rift "How Labour and Brown botched fight for 'safe' seat" "McConnell refuses to bow to pressure from London over bridge". And the Courier - "Tolls drive wedge in Labour ranks".
Evening News - "McConnell refuses to be swayed on bridge battle"
Scotsman / Press Association - "'No decision yet' over road bridge"
The Herald - "Historic battles and the new fight for Fife"
The Herald - "Brown hints at new road bridge for Forth"
Scotsman - "New fall-out as Darling burns his bridges"
Tom Minogue has been selected as a candidate to fight under "No Tolls" banner:-
SNP Press Release - "LibDems throw in towel in Dunfermline & West Fife"
More propaganda - In what may be a desperate attempt to try and justify tolls, there is today yet another story Evening News about the "need" for a new bridge either because the existing bridge "will have to close completely by 2019" or because it is "struggling to cope" with increasing numbers of vehicles. They say that a decsion must be taken "NOW!" because of increasing costs caused by the London Olympics. It seems that the people who tried to sell us the Edinburgh Toll are having another go on the Forth.
Bizarrely the story also refers to a Lib Dem petition against Toll INCREASES. Has anybody seen such a petition? Who in their right mind would sign for that rather than our petition calling for an end to tolls?
Gordon - Following the Chancellor's intervention on the tolls issue, there is speculation about what will happen if he takes over from Tony:- Evening News Comment
Scotsman - "Nats pin poll hopes on toll row"
Bridge traffic falls - Report in Daily Record:- "BRIDGE TRAFFIC LAIR". Our Press Release:- Fall in Forth bridge traffic
More Fog of War
More reports on the tolls in Scotland (most recent report first):-
Evening Times - "McConnell eases fears on toll fees"
Scotsman / Press Association - "SNP unveils by-election candidate"
Evening News - "If toll hikes are scrapped we'll face crisis, warn bridge chiefs"
Courier - "£4 Forth bridge toll plans ruled out"
Daily Record - "'WHO IS RUNNING SCOTLAND?'"
Herald - "Maths teacher Jack gets his sums wrong"
Herald - "McConnell takes the Brown line on £4 bridge toll"
Scotsman - "McConnell in U-turn on Forth Road Bridge"
Scotsman - "Rethink demanded over Forth Road Bridge charges"
Evening Times (19th) - "Erskine Bridge toll decision delayed".
Part of a letter from Tom Minogue in today's Courier and yesterday's Scotsman:-
"Sir,-I am surprised to see how easily people have risen to Gordon Brown's bait re Britishness.
What Gordon is doing with his latest soundbite is simply wrapping himself in the Union Jack-a bit of good old-fashioned political opportunism aimed at English MPs who might object to the next Prime Minister being a Scot.
Gordon has a long history of such opportunistic stunts dating back to 1985 when he even introduced a bill in Parliament for the abolition of tolls on the Forth and Tay Road Bridges!
Now, as we all know, Gordon as Chancellor is in a position to fulfil his (1985) wishes, but he now wants to toll all major roads in Britain-and would tax us for walking down the street if he could get away with it.
So you see he doesn't mean what he says, he is a politician after all.
So let us not get hot under the collar about Gordon's John Bull act-he doesn't mean anything by it-he probably woke up with a spring in his step because he is to be a father again and decided to play a hunty gowk on us."
It was announced that the NAAT would put up a candidate in the by-election Dunfermline Press headline
This was the statement made by Tom Minogue from the Alliance in Scotland at the start of the day:-
A decision was taken by a meeting of NAAT Scotland in Lochgelly Centre last Sunday that we will contest the forthcoming Dunfermline West By-election. Although it is rumoured that the date for the election is 9th February no date has been set and once the date is set a further meeting will be held to select a candidate to fight the election on the promise of opposing the existing tolls and any subsequent extension of their imposition or their increase.
NAAT Scotland's election manifesto has still to be agreed and approved by the membership but will concentrate on the existing unfair (and possibly illegal) tolls still being charged on a bridge long since paid for. These tolls punish hardest, those least able to afford them, are damaging to the economy of Fife, and though they are a devolved issue are something that Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer has the power to abolish if he was so minded. This after all was Dr Gordon Brown MP's aim when he opposed the tolls in 1985 by introducing a private member's bill in Parliament for the abolition of tolls on the Forth and Tay Bridges. Dr Brown's Bill and his evidence to the Public Inquiry in 1985 will feature large in NAAT Scotland's election campaign.
It should be noted that when Gordon Brown argued for the abolition of tolls in 1985 the bridge was 10 years away from being paid for. Now 20 years on the bridge has been long since paid for. FETA who operate the bridge have £17 Million in the bank!
In fielding a candidate for the Dunfermline West By-election NAAT Scotland are giving the people of the constituency a chance to give the Government a black-eye by electing a truly independent MP who in tight votes at Westminster would have the power to negotiate major benefits (beginning with toll removal) for the people of Dunfermline and the rest of Fife.
Fog of War
The by-election in the Dunfermline and West Fife seat at Westminster has resulted in a series of press stories on the tolls angle:-
BBC - "Bridge tolls raised in parliament"
Scotsman / Press Association - "Bridge toll increase not ruled out"
Evening News - "£4 tolls plan for road bridge declared 'dead in the water'"
Glasgow Daily Record - "FORTH BRIDGE TOLL SCRAPPED" (If only this was true!)
Scotsman / Press Association - "Confusion over bridge toll plans"
Scotsman - "Forth Road Bridge toll rises 'scrapped'"
The Herald - "Brown at odds with McConnell over Forth road bridge tolls"
Scotsman / Press Association - "Chancellor scraps toll increases"
Scotsman / Press Association - "Decision on bridge tolls put back".
Willie Rennie, the Lib Dem candidate, starts the Fog of War, by attacking £4 tolls, but not revealing what he does support - £3.99? Courier - "Candidate's anti-£4 cry puts heat on minister". Leader from the Courier Populism or Policy (pdf file)
Lib Dem - Against Tolls or Not?
There is to a by-election in the Dunfermline and West Fife seat at Westminster, following the recent death of Rachel Squire. Tolls will be one of the major issues. Today the Lib Dems announced their candidate as Willie Rennie. According to the Evening News he will "oppose proposals for Forth Road bridge tolls". Does this mean he will support removal of the tolls? - We will find out.
Tolls - Now we can fool you
The Evening News reports how the European Trolls are getting together to avoid another Toll Poll failure:- "Conference to discuss city's road toll flop".
Tolls hit Small businesses
The Federation of Small Businesses is warning about the harmful effect of proposed toll increases for the Forth bridge. It wants businesses to be exempt from tolls:- The Scotsman - "Small businesses attack rising bridge tolls".
Scott Reid in the Edinburgh Evening News, complains about the poor train service in Scotland. A recent journey by "express" train from Edinburgh to Perth across the Forth took him nearly 2 hours. A Journey "which, even after allowing for the usual crawl through the Forth Bridge tolls, I can manage by car in just under an hour, door-to-door. ". We wonder how long it would take by car if they scrapped the tolls and got on with the M9 spur?
The Road ahead in the Telegraph
Saturday's paper had story by Hamish Scot on Edinburgh's experiment at forcing drivers off the roads - "How drivers reclaimed the streets" including "How Edinburgh rejected congestion charging"
Charles and the Skye Tolls
Yesterday's revelation from Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dem leader and MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber, gives Lesley Riddoch in the Herald an opportunity to discuss the disgraceful way that campaigners against the illegal Skye Bridge tolls were treated. Charles warnly welcomed the removal of the tolls a year ago, though he did little in public to help the 9 year campaign for their removal. "Should the Highlands break free...".
More doubts over Skye Tolls Convictions 2
This morning's Daily Record "WE TOLL YOU SO" reports on yesterday's relevations from the ex Procurator Fiscal. Will the authorities review the convictions or continue to turn a deaf ear? Will they hold an Inquiry or will we have to wait 60 years to learn the truth about the legality of the tolls?
More doubts over Skye Tolls Convictions
David Ross in the Herald reports on the doubts expressed by the ex Procurator Fiscal who prosecuted those who opposed the Skye tolls. He was denied access to all the documents on the grounds of "commercial confidentiality" and the islanders were denied legal aid. The man in the street would have no doubt that the tolls were illegal, but so far the courts have backed the Scottish politicians against the islanders:- "Prosecutor doubts 'justice' of Skye bridge convictions". BBC have story at:- "Fiscal 'stunned' at tolls denial".
PS Listen to this morning's BBC Radio 4 programme "A Bridge Too Far".
3rd January 2006
Edinburgh Tolls Vision
Donald Anderson, leader of Edinburgh City Council, had a Hogmanay article in the Evening News. The Labour run council is well known for its anti car measures, including the attempt to bring in tolls. Unfortunately it seems that the anti car policies still exist. He says because there are no tolls - "The economic gap between London and our city will continue to grow. For Edinburgh, road pricing is off the agenda, though I believe it will return as part of a Scotland or UK-wide scheme."
Edinburgh has generally opposed any plans to increase road capacity between Fife and the south bank of the Forth. But Edinburgh's boss now tells the Evening News "The state of the Forth Road Bridge is also a matter of very great concern. This road link is vital not only for Edinburgh and Fife but also for the whole economy of eastern Scotland. If the technical work currently under way shows the bridge is not fit for the 21st century, we must be ready to support plans for a new bridge. The timescales involved in major engineering programmes do not allow us the luxury of lengthy discussions." Can it be that Edinburgh has changed its tune? Or is it all part of a plan to keep tolls on the existing bridge?
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