National Alliance Against Tolls - Scotland - End of Tolls - Press Release

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(page created 10 February 2008)

From 11th February 2008, Scotland will once again be free of tolls as the Act abolishing them comes into force at midnight on Sunday 10th.

It has been a long fight to remove the tolls and we are delighted that Scotland will again be a toll free nation. This will not only be a boost for Fife, it will also enable Scotland as a toll free nation to attract more inward investment and tourists.

We are glad that the SNP not only saw that the tolls should be removed, but kept their promise and acted. There are various MSPs who have been involved in this campaign to remove the last of the tolls, but we would like to give particular thanks to Tricia Marwick.

We also believe that everyone in Scotland should give thanks to the Skye campaigners who started this fight in 1995. The law that was used against them meant that 130 of them were given criminal convictions. Those convictions should be squashed, particularly as there are doubts as to whether the Skye tolls were ever legal.

Those who wanted tolls to remain have made dire predictions that the roads will grind to a halt and the world will come to an end when tolls are removed. Though removal of tolls will increase off peak traffic, there should be little increase in peak period traffic and the removal of the toll barriers will reduce queuing and vehicle emissions. At least that is what should happen if the authorities properly integrate the bridges into the rest of the road system and do not try and "engineer" congestion.

Our tolls battle has been against politicians and their officials who seemed to be determined to keep the tolls no matter what the logic or justice of tolls removal, and how little money they netted from the tolls. Our suspicion was that they wanted to keep some tolls as a bridgehead towards introducing tolls on bridges and roads elsewhere in Scotland which were currently toll free. Though the existing tolls will be gone, Part 3 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 remains. This gives power to Scottish local authorities to introduce "road user charges", subject to possible veto from the Ministers. This is the power under which Edinburgh would have introduced its "congestion charge" and is also the power under which the Forth bridge board proposed to increase bridge tolls to four pounds. There is a danger to the whole of Scotland if this law remains, we hope that the Government will not delay in repealing it.


The people in the Skye area were not the first to oppose tolls, but in modern times they have been the best organised and the most determined. Their campaign (under the name SKAT - Skye and Kyleakin Against Tolls) started as soon as the Skye bridge opened in 1995 - with the highest tolls of anywhere in Britain (a round trip for a summer visitor to the island cost eleven pounds 40). Much later some groups opposing their own local crossing tolls were formed or revived in England and Wales, and 4 years ago the groups got together in a loose association - the National Alliance Against Tolls.

SKAT's membership of the alliance was short-lived as their tenacity and sacrifice (130 of them were given criminal convictions under section 38 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and their General Secretary, Andy Anderson was gaoled numerous times) at last gave them victory at the end of 2004.

NAAT gave evidence to the Forth Tolls Increase Inquiry in 2004 and took part in the Edinburgh Toll Poll campaign where, in February 2005, the people voted three to one against a proposed "congestion charge" scheme.

With the removal of tolls on Skye we also campaigned for the removal of the other 3 tolls. The toll on the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde being removed in March 2006. Our campaign has largely been based on trying to present the facts to offset the partial and misleading statements that are made by those who want to keep and expand tolls.

South of the border as well as campaigning against crossing tolls, we campaign against motorway tolls, the so-called "congestion charging", and the proposals for "national" road pricing.


Originally tolls were mainly for crossing rivers, but then in the 1700s there was a toll explosion throughout the UK. A series of Turnpike Acts allowed landowners to take over roads and charge a toll. In theory the toll was used to maintain or improve the road.

The tolls were very unpopular and there were riots and attacks on the tollgates. The best known being the Rebecca riots in South Wales around 1840, when those attacking the toll gates dressed as women.

At the Forth bridge tolls inquiry in 2004 we quoted Adam Smith (originally from Kirkcaldy in Fife, near the north end of the bridge). In the Wealth of Nations published in 1776 he said - "Whatever exigency of the state, turnpike tolls might be intended to supply, that exigency would be chiefly supplied at the expense of the poor, not the rich; at the expense of those who are least able to supply it, not of those who are most able."

Despite their unpopularity, most of the tolls remained till the 1870s when there was a massive purge of tolls (by then there were over 1,000 turnpikes). For England and Wales a series of Acts between 1873 and 1878 removed all the turnpikes which then became free highways run by the local authorities. The authorities also bought out almost all the tolled bridges, including the 11 tolled bridges over the Thames which were taken over by the Metropolitan Board of Works between 1878 and 1880.

In Scotland the Act which removed the tolls was the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act 1878 which said, "all highways shall be open to the public free of tolls and other exactions". The Act came into force by 1 June 1883. More detail of the Act

Britain was then largely tolls free till the 1960s and later when it was decided that 11 of the new river crossings would be tolled. In theory the tolls were only to apply till the cost of building the crossing was recovered, in practice of course the tolls remain (except now in Scotland).

Four of the new tolled crossings were in Scotland - the Forth opened in 1964, the Tay in 1966, Erskine over the Clyde in 1971 and Skye in 1995.

Amongst those opposing tolls and the inevitable increases was a certain Doctor Gordon Brown MP. At a 1985 inquiry into a proposed increase of Forth bridge tolls he said that the charging of tolls was "totally indefensible on the grounds of logic, equity and economic rationality". As a resident of North Queensferry he will benefit from the removal of the Forth bridge tolls that he opposed so long ago. What will his thoughts be on this, when his Government in London has been moving in the opposite direction and encourages more tolls and increases in existing tolls - increases agreed this year include the Severn crossing into Wales, the Mersey and Tyne Tunnels and the M6. There is also a 50 per cent toll increase proposed for the Dartford crossing on the M25.


Andy Anderson who was the leader of the original anti toll campaign up in Skye (which ran from 1995 to 2004).
Robbie the Pict who was one of the many others involved in the Skye campaign and has led legal challenges to the tolls system.
George Campbell who was the "Lone Protestor" at the Forth Bridge toll increase Inquiry.
Tom Minogue who is the alliance's main spokesman in Scotland.
John McGoldrick who is UK coordinator for the alliance.


Section 33 - From and after the fifteenth day of May, or from and Abolition after the twenty-sixth day of May when the leases of the tolls in any county run from that date, immediately following the commencement of this Act in any county in Scotland, where such commencement shall happen before the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three, and otherwise from and after the first day of June one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three, all tolls within such county, and within any burgh wholly or partly situated therein, shall be abolished, and the exaction of statute labour, and any payments of money by way of conversion or in lieu thereof, and all bridge money and assessments heretofore leviable for the maintenance of highways within such county or burgh, shall cease and determine, any Act or Acts to the contrary notwithstanding; and all turnpike roads within the same shall thereafter be and become highways, and all highways shall be open to the public free of tolls and other exactions, except as herein-after provided, within the meaning of and for the purposes of this Act: Provided always, that all the provisions of the Railways Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, with respect to turnpike roads shall continue applicable to all highways which are turnpike roads at the passing of this Act.

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