Poll tax on wheels.

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bikeprotest.jpgSo, cycling: are we generally in favour? Personally I'm more into walking - I don't feel safe listening to music on a bike, and I like not having to lock up when I get there. 

I'm passionately in favour of folk being helped to do it, though, and the provision of cycle lanes in Scotland is dire. Look elsewhere in Europe and see how dangerous it feels here, and how marginal cycling is to the planning process.

Scottish Ministers agree. Their Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) includes the following warm words from Stewart Stevenson:

"CAPS is about everyone in Scotland who is able to, having the choice to cycle in their everyday life by creating safe, welcoming and inclusive communities."

Lovely. It's like we live in Holland already. I particularly like the fact that SNP Ministers won't be forcing cycling upon those who can't. But let's not sneer. There are plenty of good ideas in this document, in amongst the vague "promote x, promote y" stuff. There's even a long section on Encouragement and Incentives.

But check out question 10 on p48, right at the end.

"Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?"

Tax discs on bikes? Seriously? I know times are hard for Finance Ministers, but this is sub-Thick Of It material. The paper's subtitled "More People Cycling More Often", after all, not "How We Could Force Folk Off Their Bikes".

You might also say it's just one option, but is this something Ministers should even be considering? The front page of today's Scotland on Sunday shows that some consideration has been given to implementation, but the Government's spokesman's backpedalling hard. Incidentally, that's a curious metaphor: as I remember it, backpedalling does nothing at all.

The SoS editorial against it talks about a tax on smugness. I don't think it's cyclists who'd get the worst of that. The fact that they're even considering this is entirely symptomatic of the SNP's complacent attitude to transport, where all that matters is the car. 

They came into government with a list of tolls to remove and of bridges and motorways to build. The civil servants nodded, the building companies rubbed their hands, and the environment came last as usual.

It's enough to make one despair, it really is. And I doubt they'll ever do it. But think how much fun the protests would be. 


We used to have a smug tax in my flat. It was a very effective way of raising revenue for beer.

Cycle tax is obviously ludicrous.

Too much to hope for that a national political editor writing about taxation might understand the very basics of taxation? Apparently:

But it also raises the question of cyclists making a financial contribution to roads maintenance. The document states: "Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?"

"Road Tax," which doesn't exist but we'll give Peterkin the benefit of the doubt and assume he means Vehicle Excise Duty, isn't a financial contribution to roads maintenance any more than it is a financial contribution to the Arts Council - it is unhypothecated and goes into central reserves. The average pound of VED handed over is destined either for healthcare or pensions.


ps The smug tax in that flat would have been a very effective way of raising revenue for a manned mission to Mars.

As I said in the comments over on SD, it's the whole ethos that bugs me, that this could even be mooted and written down without being laughed out of the room.

I'd offer to lead the other cyclists in a protest ride through the streets of Edinburgh, but I'm a fat bastard who doesn't pedal very fast so it would have to be a go-slow instead!

They are not actually considering it, as John Swinney made clear but if they were it would not be evidence of the SNP's "complacent attitude to transport, where all that matters is the car" - it would be the opposite.

After all, if car use reduces and cycling increases two things happen - you get fewer people paying road tax and more people using the roads without making a financial contribution. Arguably of course a reduction in car use would lead to less damage to roads, hence less money required to maintain them. However they would still need to be maintained. I assume you argue that should come from general taxation?

In reality it hardly matters as car use probably will not be reduced - hence it is a 'what if' question only.

You're right, car use will probably not be reduced until the price of oil again gets people thinking about it. Ministers certainly don't have any intention of doing anything but encouraging driving, despite all their eco-rhetoric.

I'd abolish road tax altogether and make it revenue-neutral with fuel duty. This is also party policy - those who actually drive most would pay most to the exchequer.

I'd also like to see less driving and more walking/cycling/public transport usage, plus less expenditure on roads. It's not primarily the maintenance cost that grieves me, it's the massive amounts being diverted into new roads and bridges.

That's the worst failure of SNP Ministers here - and I still think the additional Forth Bridge could be the end of their administration, especially when the existing bridge is so easily repairable.

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This page was published on September 13, 2009 8:44 AM.

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