Scotland should ditch “unfair” and “irrelevant” charges on motorists in favour of a pay-as-you-drive system, a think tank has suggested.
Reform Scotland is calling for political parties in the run-up to May’s Holyrood elections to commit to holding a feasibility study, looking at charging people according to which roads they use and when.
This could then replace both fuel duty – which the think tank says is on “borrowed time” as ministers encourage people to switch to electric vehicles – and the “unfair” vehicle excise duty, which charges those who drive infrequently the same as high-mileage motorists.
Alison Payne, research director at Reform Scotland, said ditching these charges for a pay-as you-drive system would be fairer and would also be “highly likely to reduce congestion, as people changed their driving behaviour to make better use of road space at times when it is cheaper to do so”.
In 2013 the think tank argued such a change could “help to reduce carbon emissions, reduce congestion and provide a fairer and more effective method of paying for use of road space”.
It raised the issue again ahead of the 2021 Holyrood elections, and in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging the sale of cars and vans powered solely by petrol or diesel will be phased out by 2030.
As well as wanting all political parties to commit to a feasibility study into pay-as-you-drive motoring, Reform Scotland wants parties to commit to devolving power over fuel duty and vehicle excise duty to Holyrood.
This would allow these charges to abolished, in favour of an alternative system.
Ms Payne said: “The way we currently charge drivers is bad for the environment, promotes congestion and is unfair on low-mileage motorists and those in more remote areas.
“It’s also the case that the taxes which underpin the charging system are becoming increasingly irrelevant as electric vehicles become more prominent.
“We believe that pay-as-you-drive, with central and local government pricing roads and being accountable to their electorate for their level, would be fairer and more relevant to the future of motoring.
“It would also be highly likely to reduce congestion, as people changed their driving behaviour to make better use of road space at times when it is cheaper to do so.”