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SNP pledges to charge commuters to enter Edinburgh-wide congestion zone to reduce traffic

THE SNP will charge commuters entering Edinburgh and level workplace parking tax on some of the capital’s biggest businesses if the party wins re-election next month.

In a key local election pledge, the party wants to charge drivers who commute to enter city limits at peak times to reduce traffic and encourage more workers to enter Edinburgh by public transport commmon.

Separate plans for a workplace parking charge would see 200 businesses with more than 50 spaces being charged around £500 per year per space, with exemptions for hospitals and medical facilities – amounting to £2 per working day and per place.

Opponents have slammed the plans as a ‘double whammy for workers’ – fearing the strategy will be rolled out in some of Scotland’s other major cities such as Glasgow amid promises to cut traffic and meet targets from net zero.

In 2005 Edinburgh residents voted in a referendum to reject congestion zone plans which would have charged motorists £2 a day – with fines of up to £60 for those who failed to pay . The London Congestion Zone imposes a daily rate of £15 but does not cover the entire city.

READ MORE: SNP pledges to extend Edinburgh tram if re-elected in capital

Council leader Adam McVey pledges to roll out the policy during the council’s next term if the SNP returns to power in Edinburgh.

He told the Herald that ‘too many cars coming from the area in Edinburgh’ was a ‘brutal truth that we have to live with and address’.

He added: ‘We have come up with a very sensible measure which is a charge on people entering at peak times, with exemptions for things like hospital visits and healthcare, as we recognize that Edinburgh contains good regional facilities.

“Basically, this will not apply to any tax-paying residents of Edinburgh council. We need to make sure that residents, when they need to get around our city, can get around our city.

Funds raised from the congestion zone would be reinvested to improve public transportation systems on a regional basis, including park and ride facilities and better public and active transportation options.

Mr McVey said: ‘It would only work at peak times to try to ensure that congestion is the thing we are trying to solve and target.

“People who need to drive across town will be able to do so more easily, transport will flow more smoothly and it will make it much more attractive for people to use these public transport alternatives.”

READ MORE: SNP Government to investigate charging for car use to cut carbon emissions

The SNP government has pledged to cut car journeys by 20% by 2030 – while politicians in Edinburgh and Glasgow have pledged to create net zero cities by the same timeframe.

But Mr McVey admitted ‘we need to make it more affordable and easier’ for commuters from Fife and Lothians to use public transport to get to Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government has been criticized for plans to allow councils to introduce a workplace parking charge, which would impose a charge on parking spaces.

SNP leaders in Edinburgh are pledging to roll out the scheme to 200 companies – and hope to put measures in place to ensure the burden is not passed from employers to workers.

Mr McVey said: “The only businesses that would pay it are the top 200 businesses in the city – those are only businesses that have 50 or more parking spaces.

“We will also see, in the conditions of implementation of the policy, how to prevent companies from passing on these charges to employees.

“What we want is for companies themselves to engage in the process with their employees in a supportive way to empower their employees to make the right choices.”

He added: “We exempt things like hospitals and medical centers from it so they don’t get charged.

“Even at this rate we would still raise around £10million a year.

“It’s a huge amount of money to invest in strengthening public transport in the city and strengthening the delivery of our transport plans.”

The workplace parking charge is expected to cost around £450-£550 per year per parking space subject to the charge, or around £2 per working day.

READ MORE: Workplace parking charge plans could be approved by ministers amid business fears

Workplace parking charge schemes have been heavily criticized by industry leaders, with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce warning that ‘businesses are in disbelief that they face costs even more initial trading, just as the economy begins to recover from the impact of Covid-19.”

Scottish Tories have also spoken out against the plans and are calling for a rethink of congestion charging proposals.

Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP and Shadow Local Government Secretary Miles Briggs said: ‘The SNP’s war on motorists apparently knows no bounds. Not only do they want to hammer workers just by driving to work, they are upping the ante even further.

“A commuter tax would be a potential double whammy for workers who rely on their car to come to Edinburgh because of where they live or poor public transport connection.”

He added: “Obviously the opinions of the Greens rub off on the SNP the longer they are in coalition together.

“Only Scottish Tories can be trusted to defend motorists against such SNP plans to impose more taxes, which will only hurt working people and damage our recovery.”

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