Scottish Parliament 2005 Back to Scotland page HOME
27 Jan 2004 - Written Answers
Kenny MacAskill(Lothians) (SNP):To ask the Scottish Executive whether the introduction of road tolls, as has been implemented in England, would be effective in Scotland; what discussions would have to be undertaken and by whom, if road tolls were to be introduced; what powers it would have not to agree to, or to seek to vary, any tolls; to whom any revenue accrued would go, and who would be responsible for the upkeep of roads with tolls.
Nicol Stephen: There are no provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 for tolling of motorways and trunk roads and no proposals to proceed with any tolling projects in Scotland.
12 Feb 2004 - Written Answers
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive how much, and what percentage, of money collected from tolls on the Erskine Bridge was diverted to matters not directly concerned with the management of the bridge in each of the last three years.
Nicol Stephen: Receipts from tolls collected at Erskine Bridge, along with expenditure related to the bridges, are included in the Executive's main transport programme. Latest expenditure is detailed in the Erskine Bridge accounts 2002-03 a copy of which is available in the Parliament's Reference Centre, Bib. number 30370.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the operating costs of the Erskine Bridge were in each of the last three years.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the cost of collecting the Erskine Bridge tolls was in each of the last three years.
Nicol Stephen: The information requested is detailed in the Erskine Bridge Accounts 2000-2001, 2001-02 and 2002-03, copies of which are available in the Parliament's Reference Centre, Bib. numbers 24147, 25778 and 30370 respectively.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what costs are payable annually to APCOA Parking (UK) Ltd for the collection of tolls at the Erskine Bridge and what percentage of tolls collected is received by the company as a fee.
Nicol Stephen: Costs vary year on year under the terms of the toll collection contract. Costs in the current year will be £555,594 excluding VAT. These costs represent an agreed management fee under contract and are not calculated as a percentage of tolls collected.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the annual costs are to its Development Department of monitoring the implementation of the Erskine Bridge Tolls Act 1968 and the Erskine Bridge Tolls Act 2001.
Nicol Stephen: Costs vary year on year. The estimated cost in 2002-03 was £34,719.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what costs were paid to Amey Highways Ltd for the management and operation of the Erskine Bridge last year and what costs were paid to local authorities for maintenance and upkeep of those access roads to the bridge for which they are responsible.
Nicol Stephen: The total paid to Amey Highways for the management and maintenance of the Erskine Bridge in 2002-03 was £461,650. Funding for local roads and bridges forms part of the general Local Government Finance Settlement.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive which companies received payments for the provision of services in relation to the Erskine Bridge in each of the last three years.
Nicol Stephen: The information requested is as follows:
Alliance & Leicester Building Society, Amey Highways, APCOA Parking (UK) Ltd, Astron, Audit Scotland, C Spencer Ltd, Data Controls, David Smith (Fabricators) Ltd, Fibaform, Fortoak, Parkburn Engineering, Post Office, The Stationery Office.
In addition, payments were made in 2000-01 to Clyde Local Authority Consortium.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what long-term expenditure is projected for maintenance of the Erskine Bridge.
Nicol Stephen: A £4 million strengthening and upgrading programme commenced in 2002 and is expected to be completed in 2005. In addition to routine maintenance works, long term expenditure plans are set in the light of regular inspections of the bridge. Such work is likely to include repainting, resurfacing and structural works but it is not currently possible to estimate the timing or costs of such works.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it estimates that total expenditure on maintenance of the Erskine Bridge will total more that £1.1 billion over the next 90 years.
Nicol Stephen: The need for maintenance is identified from inspections. This enables maintenance to be planned on a rational basis. Most major maintenance does not follow a fixed cycle and it is therefore not possible to predict accurately the maintenance costs over a 90 year period.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what studies have been undertaken to examine the impact of the elimination of Erskine Bridge tolls on congestion on other Clyde crossings.
Nicol Stephen: The Executive has not conducted any studies into the potential impact of removing tolls at Erskine.
12 Feb 2004 - Debate - Erskine Bridge Tolls
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will remove tolls from the Erskine bridge.
Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services (Tavish Scott): The Executive has no plans to remove tolls from the Erskine bridge, but the matter will be considered as part of the review of existing bridge tolls in Scotland.
Jackie Baillie: The minister will be aware that the tolls were established under the Erskine Bridge Tolls Act 1968 to pay for construction of the bridge. Given that we have now paid for the bridge's construction not just once, but five times over, will the minister recognise the significant economic, environmental and social benefit that would be gained by removing the tolls, and will he encourage his colleague, Minister for Transport, to remove the tolls from the Erskine bridge, once and for all?
Tavish Scott: Jackie Baillie will be familiar with the terms of the partnership agreement, which states:
"We will improve access for our ... communities by ... Reviewing existing bridge tolls in Scotland".
It is important that, in the review that will shortly be under way, we consider the issues that Jackie Baillie raises and all the issues that will be raised in relation both to the specific issues of bridges and to the Executive's plans for the new transport authority and regional partnerships. It is too early to determine when that review will be finished, but Minister for Transport will make an announcement-
Members: In due course.
Tavish Scott:-in due course.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): The minister will be well aware of previous representations that I and my colleague Trish Godman have made regarding the socioeconomic impact of tolls on the Erskine bridge, which runs between our constituencies. Will the minister work with the relevant local and national agencies to quantify the positive impact that removal of the tolls would have on West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire? Will he also ask his officials to investigate the effect that removal of the tolls would have on congestion at the Clyde tunnel and the Kingston bridge? Surely removal of tolls on the Erskine bridge would represent even better value for money than the Executive's investment in the M74 extension.
Tavish Scott: Mr McNulty raises a number of important issues that I will be happy to bring to the attention of my officials and of Minister for Transport. Such issues and the detailed socioeconomic arguments that he has put forward will certainly be part of the review, when it takes place
27 Feb 2004 - Written Answers
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether the £13,712,663 accumulated surplus identified in the Erskine Bridge accounts for 2000-01 is consistent with section 4(2) of the Erskine Bridge Tolls Act 1968.
Holding answer issued: 13 February 2004
Nicol Stephen: Yes. Audit Scotland have certified that the 2000-2001 accounts were properly prepared in accordance with Erskine Bridge Tolls Act 1968.
4 Mar 2004 - Debate - Erskine Bridge (Tolls)
Trish Godman (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether there are any plans to allow for the suspension of tolls on the Erskine bridge during the period when the Clyde tunnel is under repair.
Minister for Transport (Nicol Stephen): There are no current plans to suspend tolls on the Erskine bridge.
Trish Godman: I thank the minister, but his answer was less than helpful. I remind him that, from day one of the Parliament, Des McNulty and I have been asking for the tolls to be lifted. Other Members, including Jackie Baillie, have done the same. What has the ministers' response been? There will be no lifting of the tolls despite the fact that the bridge has paid for itself. There will be no financial support for Glasgow City Council when it has to upgrade the Clyde tunnel. When does the minister expect to receive the report of the group that is reviewing tolls on bridges all over Scotland? An answer of, "Some time soon," will not be acceptable.
Nicol Stephen: I hope to receive the report quicker than that-it will be later this year. I realise the importance of the wider review to all the toll bridges in Scotland. We will make early progress on the review and that is a clear commitment from the partnership agreement.
With regard to the points that Trish Godman raises, the works that are being carried out are related to new safety regulations and to the fire that took place in the Mont Blanc tunnel.
It is important that the work goes ahead as soon as possible. It will start on 19 April, last approximately 57 weeks and end in mid-May 2005. At no stage will the tunnel be shut completely and all the works will be carried out overnight from 7 pm until 6 am. During that night-time period, a contraflow system will be in operation in the other section of the tunnel. The work will not affect daytime traffic.
Tolls on the Erskine bridge have been suspended on previous occasions. There were three such occasions, but that was when the Kingston bridge was closed fully for periods of greater than 24 hours. That is the justification for the current position. If there were to be any change to that position, powers would require to be taken through some temporary suspension of tolls order. We have no such order in place at present.
Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): The minister has said repeatedly that dealing with congestion is at the top of his agenda of priorities. Does he understand the frustration that people in the west of Scotland feel, given that the Kingston bridge and the Clyde tunnel are the major congestion pinch points with which we have to deal? Removing the tolls from the Erskine bridge would present a third option to people who have to cross the river. In the context of an almost 60 per cent increase in investment in transport since 1999, it makes absolute sense to stop penalising the people in the west of Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire by continuing to impose those tolls when we could improve economic infrastructure, reduce congestion and deal with what is seen as a great annoyance at a stroke.
Nicol Stephen: I accept fully the importance of the matter and the fact that it is of regional significance. That is why we are setting up the Scottish transport agency and why we intend to give greater powers and statutory strength to regional transport partnerships so that we are better able to tackle major public transport, roads and bridges issues of regional or strategic significance in Scotland. We will produce a white paper on that subject soon. We are progressing with the tolls review. We are doing a lot of work to address the problems that Members have raised today. I give them a final commitment that we will make progress on those problems in the coming months.
9 Mar 2004 - Written Answers
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what the remit, Membership and work programme will be of the review group set up to consider tolls on Scottish bridges.
Nicol Stephen: I am currently considering these matters and will make an announcement in due course.
18 Mar 2004 - Written Answers
Jim Mather (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive how much was collected in tolls on the Skye Bridge in 2002-03.
Nicol Stephen: Total tolls collected on the Skye Bridge in the financial year 2002-03 amounted to £3,960,852.
22 Apr 2004 - Debate - Tolled Bridges (Review)
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive when it intends to start the review of tolled bridges referred to in "A Partnership for a Better Scotland".
Minister for Transport (Nicol Stephen): Preparations for the review are at an advanced stage and I will make an announcement on the remit and programme for taking forward this work in due course.
Helen Eadie: In light of the calls for removal of the tolls on the Skye and Erskine bridges, will the minister have regard to the fact that the capital costs of building the Forth road bridge were repaid in 1996? Will he further note the economic situation in Fife, where the level of unemployment in central Fife is acute and is higher than in many other parts of Scotland? As one of the solutions to the problem, will he hear my call for the Forth road bridge tolls to be abolished as an outcome of the review? Will he join me in welcoming the news that the Scottish Trades Union Congress yesterday agreed a motion calling for another multimodal crossing over or under the Forth?
Nicol Stephen: All those issues will certainly be taken into consideration as part of the review. I met representatives of FETA-the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, which is responsible for the bridge-to discuss the pressures that it faces and to encourage it to develop proposals for the crossing over the coming months.
It would be wrong for me to signal the removal of tolls on any of the bridges that will be included in the review, particularly the Forth bridge. The toll on that bridge is being increased from 80p to £1 and I know that that funding is crucial to FETA's future plans in relation to the maintenance of the bridge. The structure is around 40 years old and will require significant maintenance and investment over the coming decades. We will require to consider that matter, too, as part of the review.
Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green): Does the minister agree that a study into yet another Forth road bridge is a waste of resources and that we should focus on upgrading the existing infrastructure, starting with the signalling on the Forth rail bridge and finishing with the opening of stations at Methil, Leven and St Andrews?
Nicol Stephen: I agree there are significant shorter-term measures that we can take, such as the introduction of the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line, which will take pressure off the Forth rail bridge and allow us to upgrade to improve services to Fife. In relation to our longer-term view of the Forth crossing, which is vital for Scotland, I would like to see the balance of investment swing towards public transport and better public transport services for that crossing, but it would be wrong at this stage to rule out any of the options for the future.
20 May 2004 - Debate - Skye Bridge Tolls
John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has assessed the impact of Skye bridge tolls on the tourism industry of Skye and Lochalsh.
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport (Mr Frank McAveety): There has been no specific assessment of the impact of Skye Bridge tolls on the tourism industry of Skye and Lochalsh, but we have not seen any evidence of visitors to the island being discouraged by tolls.
John Farquhar Munro: I am sure that the minister is aware that tourism and related activities are the main economic planks of Skye and Lochalsh. As we approach the coming tourism season, will the minister encourage his Cabinet colleagues to honour the commitment in the partnership agreement to remove the discredited toll regime from the Skye bridge, in order to support the area's economy?
Mr McAveety: As the member is aware, we are in discussions and negotiations about how to deal with the Skye bridge toll regime. That issue forms part of the broader discussions that I, along with fellow Cabinet ministers such as the Minister for Finance and Public Services, will need to have in the near future. Between 2001 and 2002, traffic across the bridge increased by 8 per cent. Since 1996, traffic across the bridge has increased by 17 per cent. There is still an opportunity. I am sure that the member agrees that the fundamental issue is that we increase opportunities for tourism in Skye and Lochalsh by continuing to make progress on investing in the marketing of Scottish tourism, both nationally and internationally. We hope that in that way tourism investment in the economy-about which the member is right to care passionately-can be delivered.
Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): That is an interesting reply. Given that last year the minister made it known that £27 million in bridge tolls had been collected and that the terms of the tolling licence, which were to collect £23.64 million at 1990 prices, may now have been fulfilled, what is his response to the opinion of Mark Poustie, professor of law at Strathclyde University, that there is now "doubt regarding the lawfulness of the continued collection of tolls by the concessionaire"?
Mr McAveety: That question does not fall within my ministerial responsibility. I am sure that the Executive ministers responsible are addressing the concerns to which the member refers. The critical issue is how we deliver on both the partnership commitment that has been mentioned and the partnership commitment on tourism. The evidence of the past few months suggests that the new money that has been injected into Scottish tourism will benefit the Skye and Lochalsh area and, I am sure, its inhabitants.
Alasdair Morrison (Western Isles) (Lab): As the minister knows, the cost of crossing the bridge was frozen in December 1999 and it will never increase-that is thanks to the Executive's intervention and it obviously benefits both locals and tourists. An issue that is constantly raised by my constituents, and indeed by tourists, is that books of tickets are valid for only one year. Given that the price will not increase, will the minister consider discussing with Minister for Transport a change to the rules to allow books of tickets to be valid for two years?
Mr McAveety: I am happy to take that matter up with the minister who has responsibility for it. We can address those broad issues, but I welcome the initial comments in the member's contribution. We have made substantial inroads in relation to the cost-effectiveness of the bridge tolls, and our ambition is to assess the future viability of tolls, not just on the Skye bridge, but elsewhere in Scotland.
21 May 2004 - Written Answers - Skye Bridge
Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) (SSP): To ask the Scottish Executive whether £23.64 million, the agreed cost of the Skye Bridge at July 1990 prices, has been collected in tolls and, if not, when it estimates that this figure will be reached.
Nicol Stephen: The agreed costs have not yet been recovered through tolling. Information on this issue and the detailed terms of the contract itself, are now the subject of commercially confidential negotiations with Skye Bridge Limited, with a view to ending the discredited toll regime for the Skye Bridge.
Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) (SSP): To ask the Scottish Executive by what statutory authority it permits the charging of road tolls on the A87 at the Plock of Kyle and how this is consistent with the prohibition on tolling in Inverness-shire granted by William I, King of Scots, in perpetuity in 1180.
Nicol Stephen: The power to charge tolls at the Skye Bridge is set out in section 27 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, and is implemented by The Invergarry - Kyle of Lochalsh Trunk Road (A87) Extension (Skye Bridge Crossing) Toll Order 1992. The interpretation and application of a Royal Charter of 1180 in the light of these more recent powers is a matter for the courts.
Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) (SSP): To ask the Scottish Executive, given that only the road authority or a concessionaire with lawfully assigned powers might properly charge and collect tolls, on what statutory basis other organisations are permitted to charge tolls on the Skye Bridge.
Nicol Stephen: No other organisations are permitted to charge tolls on the Skye Bridge.
Jim Mather (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it can confirm that William I, King of Scots, by royal charter declared a prohibition in perpetuity on tolling in Inverness-shire and Moray in 1180 and that this declaration is protected by the terms of Article 21 of the Act of Union 1707, concerning the rights of royal burghs, and has never been repealed.
Nicol Stephen: The question of whether such a charter is still in force and its effects, interpretation and application is a matter for the courts to determine.
3 Jun 2004 - Written Answers
Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what consultations or reviews it (a) has conducted, (b) is conducting and (c) plans in relation to tolls on the Forth Road Bridge and the Tay Road Bridge.
Holding answer issued: 25 May 2004
Nicol Stephen: The Executive is committed to reviewing existing bridge tolls in Scotland, including those at the Forth Road and Tay Road Bridges. I shall make an announcement on the terms of reference of the review in due course.
Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it plans to introduce discounts for regular users of the Tay Road Bridge.
Holding answer issued: 26 May 2004
Nicol Stephen: The level of tolls and any discounts offered are, in the first instance, a matter for the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board, which owns and operates the Tay Road Bridge.
Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it plans to increase discounts for regular users of the Forth Road Bridge.
Holding answer issued: 26 May 2004
Nicol Stephen: The level of tolls and any discounts offered are, in the first instance, a matter for the Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA), which owns and operates the Forth Road Bridge. FETA currently offers discounts to drivers of cars, light goods and heavy goods vehicles.
3 June 2004 - Debate - Skye Bridge
John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD): As the minister is dealing with transport in his speech, does he accept that one of the main impediments to the economy of the Highlands and Islands is the tolls that are charged on the Skye bridge? Would he care to indicate when we might see the end of that discredited toll regime?
Mr Wallace: I wonder how I anticipated that question. I am sure that John Farquhar Munro would agree that Skye has had a good economic success story over recent times. However, I reaffirm and reassure Members and John Farquhar Munro that the Executive is committed to ending the discredited tolling regime on the Skye bridge. Professional advisers have been appointed and discussions with Skye Bridge Ltd have already begun. Having conferred with Minister for Transport on the issue in anticipation of such a question, I believe that we can achieve our goal by the end of this year.
Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green): ...I welcome the Executive's announcement today that the Skye bridge tolls will be removed, not soon or in due course, but by the end of the year. I congratulate the Executive on actually setting a timescale. Surely the bridge represents one of the worst excesses of free market globalisation and I say to Murdo Fraser that I see no reason why we should build any more bridges in Scotland under similar arrangements.
3 June 2004 - Debate - Edinburgh Toll
David McLetchie: I hope that the Cabinet will consider tolls and taxes on our motorists. I wonder whether I can explore with First Minister an answer that he gave to Mr Swinney a few minutes ago. Do I take it from First Minister's remarks on a referendum in Edinburgh on so-called congestion charging or tolls that First Minister favours that proposal and the introduction of a £2 a day charge on motorists coming into our city? How does he reconcile his position with the whole-hearted opposition to the tolls that has been expressed by every Labour council that surrounds Edinburgh? Midlothian Council, West Lothian Council, East Lothian Council and Fife Council have all recognised that our motorists are paying quite enough, thank you, and that they do not need any further encouragement or additions from First Minister or the Scottish Executive?
First Minister: Mr McLetchie will know that we cannot, as an Executive, take a position on that issue until nearer the time, when we will be asked to take a formal position on it. Therefore, we are careful about what we say about the specific proposals that will go to a referendum in Edinburgh. What has been important all along, however, is our insistence that the City of Edinburgh Council test public opinion in the city and that that become part of the final decision-making process.
Let us also be very clear about this: we cannot sit in the chamber month after month and year after year-as we have done over the past five years-and talk about reducing car use, which every party in here has done, about protecting the environment, which every party in here has done, about reducing congestion, which every party in here has done, but then not be brave enough to take the measures that might actually reduce congestion and deal with protection of the environment, which we all seek. That will mean that Scotland must at some point face up to the issue of charging on some of our roads. That will be the right thing for us to do. It will be the right thing in the right local circumstances. When somebody locally is brave enough to do it, we should back them and not just score points by opposing them.
David McLetchie: First Minister seems to be swinging all over the place. First, he tells Mr Swinney that basically he backs tolls, then he tells us that the Scottish Executive cannot take a position on the matter because the matter has to come to the Executive for a decision. He then rounds off his remarks by saying that he is in favour of the tolls again. So what is it? First Minister should appreciate that people in Scotland are sick of the high levels of taxes that we pay-we pay the highest fuel taxes in Europe, thanks to Gordon Brown. The primary responsibility for the price of petrol is not with OPEC or the Sheik of Araby; it is with the Kirkcaldy con man, Gordon Brown. That is the fact of the matter.
The Scottish Executive, with its support for tolls and congestion charging, is compounding the problem for our motorists in the city and making life difficult for our motorists and hauliers in rural communities. Will First Minister finally take the opportunity to fight the increasing tax burden on Scotland's road users and tell the chancellor that enough is enough? While he is at it, will First Minister reject the absurd tolls plan that has no friends in Edinburgh or anywhere else in Scotland?
First Minister: I am happy to deal with both issues as one question and in one answer. No, I will not do as Mr McLetchie asked. I believe that the chancellor should examine fuel duty after the outcome of the international negotiations. If those produce a reduction in the price of oil, that reduction will be more sustainable and will be much more significant for Scottish road users and for the road haulage industry in Scotland than will simply taking away the 1.92p September increase. If the international negotiations are not successful, the chancellor should of course examine that increase.
On tolls, can we just be clear about this? Mr McLetchie is happy to quote a few Labour-run councils on the outskirts of Edinburgh that have commented on the tolls scheme, but he did not mention the fact that the Scottish Borders Council, in which the Tories are the largest political party, has not rejected the scheme for Edinburgh. I presume that that is because the council realises that there is a serious issue that has to be dealt with. We in Scotland have to be aware that, if people in London are prepared to run a scheme that is a success, are brave enough to make the difficult decision to do that and have been able to win public support for it, at some time, somewhere in Scotland, somebody has to do something about city congestion. Whether it is proposed in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen or on our motorways, I am prepared to consider those options and to put the environment and the long-term interests of Scotland's car users first.
8 Jun 2004 - Written Answers
Jim Mather (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what its response is to the opinion of Professor Mark Poustie, Professor of Law at Strathclyde University, that there is now doubt regarding the legality of the continued collection of tolls at the Skye Bridge by the concessionaire in light of the information from Minister for Transport last year that £27 million had been collected and that subsequent toll collection could now have fulfilled the terms of the tolling licence by collecting £23.64 million at 1990 prices.
The member has provided the following Gaelic translation:
A dh' fhaighneachd de Riaghaltas na h-Alba, dè an fhreagairt a tha aige do bheachd an Àrd-ollaimh Mark Poustie, Àrd-ollamh Lagha ann an Oilthigh Shrath Chluaidh, gu bheil mì-chinnt a-nis ann air laghalachd nan cìsean a tha an Neach-togail-chìsean fhathast a' cruinneachadh air Drochaid an Eilean Sgitheanaich, às dèidh do Mhinistear na Còmhdhail ainmeachadh an-uiridh gun deach £27 millean a chruinneachadh, agus gum b' urrainn do na cìsean a chaidh a thogail bhon uairsin a bhith air cumhachan a' chunnraidh airson nan cìsean a choilionadh às dèidh dhaibh airgead a chruinneachadh a tha luach £23.64 millean aig prìsean 1990.
Nicol Stephen: I refer the member to the answer given to question S2W-8105 on 25 May 2004. All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament's website.
The Scottish Executive has provided the following translation:
Tha mi airson aire a' bhuill a thoirt chun fhreagairt a chaidh a thoirt do cheist S2W-08105, 25/4/2004. Tha freagairtean nan CP sgrìobhte rim faotainn air làrach-lìn na Pàrlamaid, agus lorgar an goireas-rannsachaidh aig.
10 Jun 2004 - Written Answers
Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) (SSP): To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S2W-8107 by Nicol Stephen on 21 May 2004, on what statutory basis organisations, other than the road authority or a concessionaire with lawfully assigned powers, are permitted to demand or collect tolls on the Skye Bridge.
Nicol Stephen: No other organisations are permitted to demand or collect tolls on the Skye Bridge unless operating as contractors or agents.
Carolyn Leckie (Central Scotland) (SSP): To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S2W-8105 by Nicol Stephen on 21 May 2004, in what sense it considers the toll regime for the Skye Bridge to be "discredited."
Nicol Stephen: Ministers regard the toll regime for the Skye Bridge to be "discredited" in every sense.
16 Jun 2004 - Debate - Transport
Minister for Transport (Nicol Stephen): In the context of the new national and regional transport arrangements, we also intend to carry out a two-phase review of our toll bridges. The review will examine all Scotland's toll bridges-Skye, Erskine, Tay and Forth-and we expect to have completed the first phase by the autumn of this year, with the overall review completed by summer 2005. The first phase will assess all existing tolls, including the way in which changes to tolls could help to achieve our environmental and economic objectives of reducing pollution and congestion. The second phase will include an examination of the broader issues of the management, operation and maintenance of the bridges.
We have already made it clear that we are committed to ending the discredited toll regime on the Skye bridge. Professional advisers have been appointed, discussions with Skye Bridge Ltd have begun and I believe that we can achieve that goal by the end of this year.
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): I welcome the minister's announcement about the toll bridges review group. Along with Trish Godman and Des McNulty, I hope that he will encourage the group to consider closely the Erskine bridge-another of Scotland's most discredited toll regimes. The minister will be aware that the tolls were introduced for the sole purpose of paying for the construction of the bridge some three decades ago. He will also be aware that we have now paid for the bridge not once, not twice, but five times over. Unlike other bridges, it is one that the Executive owns. Can we look forward to early action being taken on removing the tolls from the Erskine bridge?
Nicol Stephen: Those will be key considerations for us in relation to the bridges review.
Jackie Baillie: Yes or no?
Nicol Stephen: The short answer is yes. There are, however, issues to do with the cost of the maintenance of our bridges and, as I said in my statement, we have to consider economic and environmental issues. I give Members the commitment that all the issues will be fairly assessed in the bridges review.
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) (Lab): How will the minister address the issues that Des McNulty highlighted earlier about deprivation? As Des McNulty said, Fife is one of the areas with particularly high unemployment. Will the minister look at the economic issues as well as the transportation issues when he comes to prioritise matters such as whether there will be a new Forth road bridge? As I crossed the bridge this morning, the traffic going towards Fife was queueing all the way back to Newton-a distance of 6 or 7 miles. Will he give that problem some priority? I welcome the review of tolls in Scotland and I hope that Fife will be included in that.
Nicol Stephen: Economic opportunities are absolutely central to the white paper to ensure that areas of deprivation have access to good-quality communications and that we have linkages between where people sTay and where they can gain employment. That is crucial to our future transport strategy.
In relation to the proposals for the Forth road bridge and an additional crossing, we have proposals for a second bridge at Kincardine. We have encouraged the Forth Estuary Transport Authority, which is responsible for the Forth road bridge, to think about the longer-term opportunities for a new bridge. We await its consultancy proposals and recommendations with interest.
29 Jun 2004 - Written Answers
Fergus Ewing (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive which consultants are advising it in relation to the Skye Bridge PFI buy-out; whether it has set any date by which the consultants must report to it; whether negotiations with the Skye Bridge Company have commenced and when they expect them to be concluded; whether it will then complete the purchase of the owners' rights under the PFI, and whether it will hold a public inquiry into the issues raised and, if so, whether all documents will be made public giving the reasons for its position on this issue.
Nicol Stephen: The Executive has engaged Commerzbank AG to identify and analyse options to end the Skye Bridge tolls. In addition, JMP Consultants is providing technical advice and Scott Wilson Scotland is providing traffic analysis. We are taking all of this work forward as a priority, and have received a number of reports to date.
Discussions with Skye Bridge Limited have begun. Our aim is to end the discredited toll regime by the end of the year.
We have no current plans to hold a public inquiry or to make the relevant documents public. Decisions on such matters will be taken at a later date.
8 Sep 2004 - Debate - Scottish Executive's Programme
Scott Barrie (Dunfermline West) (Lab): .....If we are serious about providing realistic alternatives to the people who travel by car over the Forth bridge, convenient, clean and comfortable public transport needs to be provided. Higher bridge tolls and congestion charging alone will not stop motorists. The Ferry Toll park and ride scheme and new bus lanes have improved bus travel to and from Edinburgh, but that needs to be built on. This week, Fife Council agreed that a new ferry link across the Forth between central Fife and north Edinburgh was a viable option and I hope that other Members, especially Minister for Transport, would welcome such a link as a valuable addition to travel across the Forth estuary.....
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): ......I would like the Executive to do two things. It should remove economic barriers that hamper the flow of people and businesses by abolishing tolls on the Erskine bridge. I know that that is supported by at least two of Presiding Officers and by my colleague Des McNulty.....
16 Sep 2004 - Written Answers
Scott Barrie (Dunfermline West) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is on reviewing bridge tolls.
Nicol Stephen: We have stated in our partnership agreement that we are committed to reviewing existing tolls on the Erskine, Forth, Skye and Tay road bridges. The review is being carried out in two phases. The first phase will deal with existing tolls including the way they help achieve environmental objectives. The 2nd phase will look at the management of the tolled bridges in the context of the partnership commitment to establishing Transport Scotland and Regional Transport Partnerships as set out in our transport white paper - Scotland's transport future.
Work on the review is well advanced and I expect to receive a report on the 1st phase of the review this autumn
6 October 2004 - Debate - Skye Bridge
John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will review the criminal convictions of Skye bridge protesters convicted of refusing to pay the bridge toll, in light of the European Union ruling that the toll is a service charge, not a tax.
Minister for Justice (Cathy Jamieson): It is not for the Scottish Executive to review criminal convictions. If a person considers that he or she has been wrongly convicted of a criminal offence, they may appeal against that conviction to the High Court of Justiciary acting in its capacity as the court of criminal appeal. If all appeal avenues have been exhausted, they may take their case to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which will consider whether a case should be referred back to the appeal court.
John Farquhar Munro: The minister will be aware that the protesters were wrongly charged and were given a criminal conviction for refusing to pay a tax, but it has been decreed that the toll is, in fact, a service charge and subject to VAT. Accordingly, the matter is a civil matter in any court of law. What steps does the Executive propose to take to quash the convictions? Would it not be more appropriate to prevent further legal confusion by abolishing the tolls immediately?
Cathy Jamieson: I can do no better than refer back to previous answers that have been given by Minister for Transport, who has answered a number of questions on the matter and has stated how the Executive intends to deal with the Skye bridge tolls.
28 October 2004 - Debate - Edinburgh & General
Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what the economic impact on Fife would be of Edinburgh introducing road tolls.
Minister for Transport (Nicol Stephen): The City of Edinburgh Council has not yet finalised its draft charging order or submitted it to ministers. Due to the Scottish ministers' statutory role in relation to the order, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.
Murdo Fraser: I will try to tease something out of the minister. Is he aware that many people who live in Fife commute in daily to make a valuable contribution to the Edinburgh economy and that for many of them public transport is not a suitable alternative? Does he consider it acceptable that under Edinburgh's proposals people who live in North Queensferry will have to pay a toll to enter the city while people who live in South Queensferry-who cause every bit as much congestion-will get off scot free? Will the minister make the strongest representation to the City of Edinburgh Council that that discrimination against Fifers is completely unacceptable?
Nicol Stephen: I am aware of the views of Fife Council, for example, on the issue and I am aware of the work that has been done to analyse the impact that a road user charge would have on businesses in Fife. All that I can do at this stage is assure Murdo Fraser that if a road user charging scheme is submitted in due course to Scottish ministers the views of businesses and local communities in Fife will be taken into consideration when Scottish ministers reach a view on the proposal.
Scott Barrie (Dunfermline West) (Lab): My views on the unfairness of the detail of Edinburgh's tolling proposals are well known. In the context of the possible economic impact on Fife, does the minister agree that there might be an opportunity to attract businesses to locate or relocate north of the Forth, where charges would not apply? That might have the twin benefits of decreasing unemployment rates in Fife and cutting down commuter traffic on the Forth road bridge.
Nicol Stephen: I agree that all those issues need to be carefully considered. That includes the issue that Scott Barrie fairly raised and the interaction between the toll on the Forth road bridge and any road user toll. Ministers will consider those issues in due course, but we have made it clear that under the powers for road user charging in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001, if a local authority wishes to propose such a scheme, Scottish ministers will be willing to consent if the scheme is reasonable and appropriate and there is clear evidence of local support for it. We must examine this particular scheme in due course; our options are to reject it, to approve it or to amend it and we have powers to do any of those things.
Bruce Crawford (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP): I hope that today the minister will at least confirm that he is aware of the deep hostility that exists in Fife, particularly among businesses, because of the impact on the Fife economy. Is he aware that businesses in Fife are screaming about the drain on their bottom line that is the daily nightmare of travel across the Forth estuary? Is the minister planning a new bridge, the introduction of new ferry services or additional park-and-ride facilities? People in Fife simply want to know whether the Scottish Government has the vision and courage to start making decisions. Fife businesses can wait no longer for decisions to be made. For instance, building a new bridge will take 10 to 15 years.
Presiding Officer: Question.
Bruce Crawford: When will the minister act? When will he tell the people of Fife what is planned?
Presiding Officer: That was pretty wide of tolls, but Mr Stephen may answer as he will.
Nicol Stephen: We are anxious about congestion levels throughout Scotland. As Members know, most of the transport budget used to be spent on roads, but the budget was small-it was just over £300 million per year in 1999, when the Parliament was established. The transport budget is now somewhere over £900 million a year and will rise to £1.4 billion a year by 2007-08. A considerable amount of that budget will be spent on public transport initiatives. The simple answer is that I want better public transport, better park-and-ride schemes and better rail connections throughout Scotland. The Executive is investing in exactly that.
Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green): Does the minister agree that we must tackle congestion, in part through congestion charging? Congestion has a twin negative impact on the quality of life and the economy for people in Fife and the Lothians. Will he rule out a second Forth road bridge, which would only add to congestion in Fife and the Lothians while gobbling up all the Executive's transport budget, which needs to be spent on public transport alternatives to take people out of the traffic jams that are causing a lot of damage to our economy and quality of life?
Nicol Stephen: We must tackle congestion, which is an increasing problem in Scotland. It has a major impact on people and communities and has a significant impact on business. One issue on which business lobbies all ministers is the need for transport infrastructure improvements, which I am determined to deliver. To get rid of congestion, improve the situation and make transport connections flow, I rule out no approach. It is important to examine all the options.
1 Dec 2004 - Written Answer
S2W-12350 - Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con) : To ask the Scottish Executive how much compensation will require to be paid to Skye Bridge Ltd when tolls are abolished on 31 December 2004.Answered by Nicol Stephen (1 December 2004): The Executive is committed to ending the discredited tolling regime on Skye Bridge and has entered negotiations with Skye Bridge Ltd. These negotiations are commercially confidential, and any further comment would be inappropriate at this time.
16 Dec 2004 - Debate - Forth Estuary (Travel)Nicol Stephen: Those are matters for the Forth Estuary Transport Authority. I meet the authority and the bridgemaster regularly. They are doing a lot of good work and are looking to the long term. As Keith Raffan knows, they are considering whether there should be another crossing of the Forth estuary. They are also examining ways of managing the traffic on the bridge through measures such as tolls that vary according to the time of day people cross the bridge and according to whether a vehicle has a single occupant. About 70 per cent of the vehicles that cross the bridge have single occupants, so there is real potential to reduce congestion on the bridge through innovative new measures.
21 Dec 2004 - Written Answer
S2W-12790 - John Farquhar Munro (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD) : To ask the Scottish Executive when it will end Skye Bridge tolls.
Holding reply by Nicol Stephen (17 December 2004): I shall reply to the member as soon as possible.Answered by Nicol Stephen (21 December 2004): I am pleased to announce that, following the successful conclusion of negotiations with Skye Bridge Ltd, tolls will be removed from the Skye Bridge as of today.
22 Dec 2004 - Debate -Congestion Charging Scheme ReferendaDeputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business is a Members' business debate on motion S2M-2175, in the name of David McLetchie, on congestion charging scheme referenda. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament congratulates West Lothian Council for agreeing to hold a consultative referendum on the City of Edinburgh Council's congestion charging scheme and for setting a question which conforms with the guidelines issued by the Electoral Commission and regrets that the City of Edinburgh Council, in its referendum, has proposed for answer a question which does not conform with these guidelines and intends to circulate an information leaflet with the ballot paper which will not include statements from parties opposed to the scheme.
David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con): Next February, referenda are scheduled to be held in Edinburgh and West Lothian to consult residents on whether they approve of the congestion charging scheme that has been proposed by City of Edinburgh Council. It is a matter of regret to me that Midlothian Council, East Lothian Council and Fife Council are not holding referenda on the same day. Many tens of thousands of residents in those areas commute to Edinburgh on a regular, if not daily, basis for work or social purposes. They will pay dearly if the congestion charging scheme goes ahead, although they will receive little in return through public transport improvements. This would have been an opportunity to assess opinion across the area as a whole.
The referendum plan in Edinburgh was born out of blind political panic following a by-election in the Balerno ward of my constituency in September 2002, when the Labour vote completely and utterly collapsed. The referendum was devised partly to save Iain Gray's political career, and partly to defuse the controversy about road tolls as a council election issue in May 2003 and save the seats of the majority group of Labour councillors. As I know better than most, the strategy was only partially successful.
Whatever the origins, we should all acknowledge that all parties now support the use of referenda to decide issues of local and national significance. In recognition of that, the independent Electoral Commission has produced guidelines for assessing the fairness of the all-important question to be asked in any referendum. In summary, the guidelines say first that the question "should be clear" and "prompt an immediate response". They go on to say: "Words and phrases ... should not have positive or negative connotations. ... Words and phrases ... should not be leading" or "loaded", "should not contain jargon" and "should reflect the language used and understood by the voter".
Finally, the guidelines point out that questions "should not provide too much information ... should not be too long" and "should be well structured".
Let us apply those tests to the questions that will be put in the West Lothian Council and City of Edinburgh Council referenda. In West Lothian, the question is:
"Are you in favour of City of Edinburgh Council's congestion charging scheme?"
I submit that that yes or no question is readily understood, straightforward and clear-cut and uses neutral language.
The contrast with the Edinburgh question could not be greater. Members will have to bear with me as I read it out, because it will take some time. The question reads:
"The leaflet enclosed with this ballot paper gives information on the Council's transport proposals for Edinburgh. The Council's 'preferred' strategy includes congestion charging and increased transport investment funded by it. Do you support the Council's 'preferred' strategy?"
The question is not just about congestion charging; it is about a transport strategy. It is certainly not readily understood in its own terms, because it requires reference to a leaflet and familiarity with what on earth the so-called preferred strategy is. The question is leading and loaded and its language is far from neutral.
It is not just me-or even West Lothian Labour councillors-who says this. Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University described the questions as "completely biased". Professor James Mitchell of the same university said that it was highly unusual to circulate an information leaflet with the ballot paper. Moreover, the latest information leaflet is another remarkable piece of work from the City of Edinburgh Council in the finest and dishonourable tradition of the other so-called information leaflets that it has produced over the past couple of years to try and con the public into supporting road tolls. In the latest leaflet, neither of the opposition parties that is represented on the council-the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats-is to be permitted to submit any statement about why voters should vote no, even though the leaflet is effusive about the virtues of the council's preferred strategy.
22 Dec 2004 - Motions*S2M-2200 John Farquhar Munro: Abolition of Skye Bridge Tolls-That the Parliament welcomes the delivery of the Partnership Agreement commitment to abolish the discredited toll regime on the Skye Bridge and looks forward to the social and economic benefits that this will bring the residents of Skye and Lochalsh.
23 Dec 2004 - First Minister's Question TimeCabinet (Meetings)
24 Dec 2004 - MotionsS2M-2206 Trish Godman: Abolition of Tolls on Erskine Bridge-That the Parliament considers that the abolition of the tolls on the Erskine Bridge would help to relieve congestion and pollution problems on other river crossings; further considers that the local economies on either side of the Clyde would be likely to benefit, and therefore urges the Scottish Executive to move quickly to complete the work needed so that the tolls on the bridge can be removed. Supported by: Des McNulty, Jackie Baillie
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