A week in Scottish Politics – 19 February 2007

This week started with the Lib Dems in all sort of trouble. First of all their MSP, the deputy Transport Minister, Tavish Scott was trying to backtrack on calls for road tolls to be introduced while all news coverage from the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Aviemore suggest that there was more mud being slung than policies being announced, but knowing the Lib Dems this shouldn't be too much of a surprise to anyone.

Not content with getting the backs up of every Scottish motorist, Tavish Scott attacked David Cameron over allegations that the Tory leader smoked some cannabis at Eton claiming that the Tory party's new song could be 'Land of Dope and Glory.' Isn't it wonderful that the Lib Dems are focusing on the real issues in the lead up to May's election?

At Holyrood this weeks hot potato issue in Scottish Politics is certainly in regards to road tolling, an issue which has seemingly divided the Scottish Executive.

Heck at one time or another the Labour Party, The Lib Dems and the SNP have either called for or supported the introduction of road tolls. In October of last year the Scottish Labour MP Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for Transport, said "I have consistently made clear my hope that we can sustain a national consensus on road pricing" while the minister for Transport in the Executive, Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott, said this month "We need to make it (road charging) happen more quickly in Scotland and back in 2000 the SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said: "It should be for local authorities to decide, following appropriate consultation, whether schemes are viable and suitable."

The Scottish Conservatives have thus far led a successful campaign against the introduction of further road charges to drivers in Scotland. This week the Scottish Conservative launched their online petition against polls www.scotlandsaysnototolls.com and the party also used their last members debate of this parliamentary session to debate the issue of road tolls and put forward the party's opposition to their introduction.

The issue of road tolls is already a big one, but it's role in the election could prove great. Labour MSP Helen Eadie this week suggested that the tolls could play a large roll of in deciding the outcome of some seats in May, this is certainly the case in areas such as Fife where former Labour Whip Scott Barrie was so in favour of the scrapping of tolls on the Forth Bridge that he resigned as Whip in order to vote against the Labour and Lib Dem Executive.

There are many big issues leading into May's elections, but the one of road and bridge tolls is certainly going to be a major one, particularly in the mid Scotland and Fife constituencies.

Craig Wilson

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