City traffic policy
SNP plans Edinburgh congestion charge on motorists
SNP leaders want commuters to switch to public transport (pic: Terry Murden)
Motorists are likely to be charged for driving into Edinburgh if the SNP is re-elected to run the city council next month.
A workplace parking levy on large companies is also on the cards as the party pursues its policy of pushing vehicles out of the capital.
An SNP-led council will revive plans for a congestion charge at peak times to cut traffic and encourage more workers to enter Edinburgh via public transport.
About 200 firms with more than 50 car parking spaces would be charged around £500 a year per space, or £2 per working day charge per space.
The proposals could be adopted by other towns and cities in their quest to achieve net zero carbon emissions and give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
Edinburgh residents rejected a congestion charge in a controversial referendum in 2005. The new plan would not affect council tax payers in Edinburgh, but would cause disquiet among those who commute for work or study or to do business from the Lothians, Fife, Borders, Stirlingshire and across the central belt.
Current council leader Adam McVey claims that the traffic congestion is an issue that has to be addressed. Exemptions would be made for attendance at hospitals and other healthcare facilities which serve the wider city region.
“Fundamentally, this will not apply to any Edinburgh council tax-paying residents. We need to make sure that residents, when they need to get around our city, can get around our city,” he said.
The SNP plans to re-invest congestion funds in public transport, including park and ride facilities. The party has already said it will aim to expand the tram lines to the south of the city and to Granton and to introduce a tourist tax.
Business leaders are likely to be among the most vocal critics of the plan which is likely to deter trade, tourists and shoppers.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has warned that “businesses are incredulous that they are facing yet more upfront business costs, just as the economy is beginning to recover from the impact of the Covid-19”.
Some business leaders have called for more free parking – rather than higher charges – in order to help badly-hit retail and hospitality venues.
Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP and shadow local government secretary, Miles Briggs, said: “The SNP’s war on motorists seemingly knows no bounds.”
Daily Business comment: Is this the same council that approved the building of the £1bn St James Quarter shopping and leisure precinct that was only viable if it was built on top of a huge car park?
The developers weren’t fooled by the idea that it could survive if shoppers had to take their goods home on the back of a bike – and the more wide-awake councillors knew that, too.
A pedestrian and cycle policy may clean up the air, but it does little to promote trade, apart from tourism. It has to be complemented by accessible car parking.
Anyone wanting to do a “proper shop” or conduct business that requires tools and other equipment just won’t bother coming into central Edinburgh if the council makes it too expensive or too inconvenient to do so.
Shoppers will head for Fort Kinnaird, Craigleith, the Gyle or The Centre at Livingston where they can park and shop – for free. Tradesmen are already frustrated by parking restrictions on their vans and choose to take work elsewhere.
As we’ve stated before, Edinburgh has no inner ring road or subway system to relieve the congestion, so there are fewer choices about how to navigate the city.
At least the SNP is now looking at more park and ride facilities which may be an acknowledgement that more damage will be heaped on the city’s businesses without including, rather than excluding, the motorist.