SNP pledges Edinburgh congestion charge if returned to power in capital
SNP councillors have pledged to charge motorists driving into Edinburgh if they are returned to power in next month’s election.
The party said it would press ahead with a previously-floated new version of the congestion charging scheme that was emphatically rejected in a city referendum in 2005.
But the Conservatives have condemned it as “hugely unwelcome”.
The revised plans would see only drivers from outside Edinburgh being charged to enter the capital.
Residents of the entire Edinburgh local authority area, including South Queensferry and rural villages to the west such as Balerno, would be exempt.
The 2005 plans comprised two charging lines in the edge of the city and around the city centre, which all motorists would have paid £2 a day to cross.
However, since then there has been a growing acceptance among SNP ministers and local politicians, including in Glasgow, that greater curbs on car use in cities are required to cut congestion for buses, improve air quality and make city centres more attractive for walking and cycling.
In 2019, Edinburgh’s SNP-Labour ruling administration announced it would take a “fresh look” at congestion charging, but with residents being exempt.
Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said at the time: “Against the background of climate change and our 2030 [net zero] target, we have to be brave about some of the conversations that are needed to change how this city operates.”
The SNP’s Edinburgh council manifesto, published on Saturday, stated: “Congestion is a major problem for our city and much of it results from commuter journeys originating outwith Edinburgh – from the rest of the Lothians, Fife and beyond.
"We will introduce a commuter charging zone at the city boundary to discourage those living outwith the city from driving in, encouraging them to switch to bus, tram, train, foot or cycle.
"No Edinburgh resident – including those living in South Queensferry and the western villages – will ever have to pay the charge.
“We will use the revenue raised to fund sustainable transport projects, such as new park and ride schemes, sharing investment across the Lothians.”
The plans are in addition to the SNP’s support for a workplace parking levy where employers could charge staff for parking at their premises.
Iain Whyte, the council’s Conservative group leader, said: “The plan for road tolls will be a hugely unwelcome blow to businesses and motorists who need a vehicle for work as we recover from the pandemic.
"It will be a hammer blow for many with lower physical mobility who need a car.
"This is especially the case as they want to pile on a workplace parking tax and far more permit parking zones alongside it.
"The SNP war on the motorist really knows no bounds.
"This sounds like a costly and bureaucratic recipe for disaster and they certainly don’t seem to have spoken to anyone about the practicalities of implementation before coming up with this stuff.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Kevin Lang said: “The SNP’s plan is all stick and no carrot.
"The reality is that public transport in and around Edinburgh is nowhere near what it should be.
"Despite early promises, SNP councillors have failed miserably to deliver new or expanded park and rides.
"This should be the priority for the next council, so people have real alternatives to the car.”