Toll taxes - a reprieve

In something of a U-turn (hope he checked U-turns were allowed before carrying out the manoeuvre) Tavish Scott, the Scottish Transport Minister, has apparently said that the toll tax will not fall on Scotland's road users for at least four years.

It must have become obvious that the toll tax (or congestion charging as the politicians would prefer us to call it) was a massive potential vote loser. The UK petition against tolls closed with one and three-quarter million signatures against the Government's proposals.

The problem is that no-one trusts the Government when they suggest that the tolls would not be an additional expense, despite the weak suggestions that road tax (and possibly... perhaps... maybe fuel tax) would be reduced to compensate.

I think many road users feel this is just another opportunity to milk more money from a soft target.

Road users have been hit with so many messages about how naughty we all are for daring to use our cars and polluting the planet that we are a soft target. We almost expect to get punished. Come on tax me more, more, until it hurts!

The reality is somewhat different:
• The motor industry has risen to the challenge somewhat better than many others. New cars are massively less polluting than they used to be. Genuinely zero emission cars should be widespread in 10-20 years. (Already the AA has famously found that one petrol power lawnmower puts out more pollution than 100 modern cars!)
• Road use accounts for 10% or less of our household emissions.
• Public transport is not always greener (studies in Germany and UK have shown public transport producing more pollution per head and a Lancaster University study showed that - even with all seats taken - an intercity train from London to Edinburgh produced more pollution than if the passengers all drove in reasonably economical cars!)

In addition, there are some huge question marks over the whole theory that greenhouse gasses (for theory it still is) cause global warming. The recent Channel 4 programme The Great Global Warming Swindle seemed to demonstrate pretty convincingly that carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere tended to result from the natural warming cycles of the planet, rather than vice versa.

All the same, it seems pretty sensible to me to reduce the mess we make of this earth and not to squander resources. So I won't be cancelling that order for a wind turbine and I will keep planting trees.
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