National Alliance Against Tolls - Press Release 23 February 2006 - Reaction to Tolls leak

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Press Release 23 February 2006 - Reaction to Tolls Leak

TOLLS for Fifers are to be kept. This is according to leaks presumably coming from the Executive who are expected to make an official announcement next week.

Though the Executive will be keeping the tolls on both the Forth bridge (due to end on the 31st March) and on the Tay bridge, it is expected that they will not attempt to continue the tolls on the Erskine Bridge which are due to end on the 1st July.

Anti toll campaigners have reacted angrily. Tom Minogue of the National Alliance Tolls Scotland said that if the leaks were true then Fifers had been betrayed. "They promised that there would be no toll increases, and they would "work towards the removal of the tolls", when all the time, Willie Rennie, Gordon Brown and the others must have realised that the Lib Dem Transport Minister would soon be making an Order to continue the imposition of the tolls."

The planning to keep the tolls has been done in secret with the press and public excluded when the future of the tolls was discussed. Most people were kept in the dark that the tolls were due to end. Unknown to the public, on the 21st December, FETA, the bridge authority, made a formal application to the Minister for the tolls to be kept. The NAAT Scotland has applied under the Freedom of Information Act to see the correspondence that has passed between FETA and the Executive. It is expected that the Executive will either refuse to reveal these secrets or will keep them back till it is too late to do anything about it.

Campaigners are particularly angry as they argue that the present tolls are illegal. Tom Minogue discovered this when doing research as part of the effort to stop the last toll increase. He has been in contact with all the MSPs over the last few days and his claims have attracted a great deal of interest. It seems that even the Executive may think that Tom has a point as they paid 5,000 for him to drop his court case. The possible illegality of the tolls, may also explain why the authorities are keen to bring in Road User Charging using legislation in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001.

There was an attempt on Tuesday by David Davidson, a Tory MSP, to block some of the Road User Charge regulations. Mr Davidson perhaps realised that it was difficult to hang a man if there was no rope, but the Minister indicated to MSPs that there was no link between the regulations and charges on the Forth road bridge. Many of the MSPs also seemed to think that the regulations didn't matter as they would be able to stop the Minister from making any Order to keep the Forth bridge tolls.

Anti toll campaigners can not understand how anyone could believe that there was no link between the regulations and Forth bridge tolls, as the Forth is the only place in Scotland where the charges are proposed. Campaigners also point out that MSPs are under an illusion if they think that they will be given a say on whether the Forth bridge tolls are kept. The Executive confirmed to the NAAT today that a Ministerial Order to extend the tolls "is not subject to any Parliamentary process".

If MSPs have had the wool pulled over their eyes, the situation is not much better as far as Fife Councillors are concerned. The Council has an official policy that it wants tolls removed, and many individual councillors are very keen to do see this. But the Council as a whole, unlike its counterparts in the Erskine bridge area, has done virtually nothing to oppose tolls, despite lobbying from the NAAT and others.

The NAAT say that if the leaks are confirmed then it will be pleased that the burden of the Erskine bridge tolls has been removed, but appalled that Fife and the surrounding area will continue to suffer. It says "voters in the recent by-election and even many of the politicians have been kept in the dark and manipulated. Now that the cat is out of the bag, we hope that all the people of Fife will send a very loud message to the local politicians.
We want the tolls out or them out."

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