SNP's Edinburgh congestion charge plan: Businesses say extra costs are last thing they need

Small business leaders have reacted to the SNP's proposals for a congestion charge on drivers coming into Edinburgh by warning "the last thing businesses need" is additional costs imposed by the council.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 9:05 am

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The SNP’s Edinburgh manifesto for the May 5 council elections proposes a commuter congestion charge at the city boundary so drivers from elsewhere would pay to enter the Capital, but residents would not. The party argues the charge would discourage people living outwith the city from driving in and encourage them to switch to bus, tram, train, foot or cycle.

But Garry Clark, East of Scotland development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "A lot of our members are tradespeople who come in and out of the city to carry on their business, whether that's from East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, the Borders or Fife. Businesses have suffered a lot in the past couple of years and the last thing they want is additional costs."

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He said they were already experiencing higher fuel costs, energy price rises, increased National Insurance and other costs.

"A lot of them have already got their eye on the Low Emission Zone and the potential Workplace Parking Levy and how these might affect them.

"In our local government manifesto we specifically asked that councils steer clear of additional cost for business at least for two years if not for the whole of the next term.”

Mr Clark said in the wake of the pandemic businesses needed to be shown as much understanding as possible as they tried to recover.

A congestion charge would be an additional cost for businesses already struggling with rising fuel and energy prices. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

"Many businesses are getting back to normal trade in terms of pre-pandemic turnover, but costs are far higher now. Businesses in Edinburgh have taken on an additional half a billion pounds of extra debt in the last two years as a result of Covid, so the last thing they need is additional costs from whichever direction that comes.

"We would say any new council coming in must look at the health of businesses – yes in its own council area, but we also have a regional prosperity framework the council has signed up to on how the economy of the south-east of Scotland is grown as a whole.

"We have seen 20,000 businesses across Scotland close their doors over the course of the pandemic and from my conversation with businesses at the moment they are under a hell of a lot of pressure, possibly even more than they were during the pandemic because then there were grants and loans available to help them and a moratorium on evictions, but all of these safety nets have gone. The last thing we need is any additional cost pressures from a council."

The leaders of East Lothian and Midlothian councils have warned the proposed congestion charge would be unfair on their residents who work in Edinburgh and called for more investment to improve public transport before motorists are forced to pay for driving into the Capital. They also argued people working in low-income roles could find their jobs “unaffordable” because of a congestion charge.

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