National Alliance Against Tolls - Press Release 20 February 2006 - Act on the tolls now, before it is too late
Press Release 20 February 2006 - ACT ON THE TOLLS NOW, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
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"ACT ON THE TOLLS NOW, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE." is the message that has gone to Fife councillors from anti toll campaigners. In particular they want the four Fife councillors on the board of FETA, the bridge authority, to:-
"Press for the tolls not to be extended, and for the Executive to take over the bridge and it's approaches."
"Seek to overturn the decision, made at the 25th November meeting of FETA, that Road User Charging be introduced."
"Oppose FETA signing any contracts committing them to pay for a road scheme (A8000 / M9 spur) that should be paid for by the Executive, and where the limited offer of some grant is subject to unacceptable conditions."
One of the best keep secrets in Fife is that the Forth road bridge tolls are due to end on the 31st March. It is assumed that Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem Transport Minister, will in the next week issue a Ministerial Order decreeing that the tolls will be kept. There may well be some finger pointing as to who is to blame for this. But campaigners say that unless Fife Council protest loudly and strongly now, then the finger must be mainly pointed at them.
The campaigners know from their contacts with Fife councillors that many do want the tolls removed, but when it comes to acting as a body, they appear to have done nothing. It also appears that there have been decisions going on for a year or more about extending the tolls and some Fife councillors have been present. It is not clear what took place because at least one report to FETA, the bridge authority, has been treated as "confidential". It seems that this is not just a case of hiding bad news, it may also be that there are doubts as to whether the tolls are legal. In December 2004, campaigners, Tom Minogue and George Campbell, tried to take out an injunction to stop the last Toll Increase Inquiry on the grounds that the tolls legislation was invalid. The judge decided that the Inquiry should go ahead nonetheless, and the main issue was not determined.
Tom Minogue (NAAT Scotland) is considering reviving the challenge which has four points as follows:
1. The FETA Order 2002 is vitiated by the fact that it did not proceed through Parliament in a proper manner. Namely there was no Executive Motion for the Order. There had been an Executive Motion for an earlier FETA Order, but the Order was revoked and withdrawn by the Executive.
2. The old Forth Bridge Joint Board were not solely concerned with bridge matters and as a result under the terms of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 the Executive did not have the power to dissolve that Joint Board.
3. The Executive are empowered under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 to transfer the powers of the old Forth Bridge Joint Board to the new FETA, they did not have the power to create FETA in the first place.
4. The Executive by not having followed the necessary procedures under the terms of the Forth Bridge Act 1958 to extend the 1997 Toll Order do not have the right to collect tolls which is a burden equivalent to taxation on the lieges and not something that can be extended under the FETA Order 2002.
Campaigners are also disturbed to learn that the whole cost of the £40 million A8000 / M9 spur scheme in Edinburgh Council's area may be met from tolls. The Executive had only agreed to bear part of the cost, but it has now emerged that there are strings attached to the offer. Councillors have been told by campaigners that the Executive offer is more like a poisoned apple or Trojan Horse.
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