Is Pay-as-you-Drive the future?

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-partisan think-tank, has called for a revolution in how Scotland pays for its roads, to match the upcoming revolution in the cars that are driven on them.

The think tank has called for all political parties, ahead of the Holyrood election in May, to commit to a feasibility study for a pay-as-you-drive system, whereby people pay according to which roads they use and when. This would replace Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty. Reform Scotland is also asking the parties to commit to the devolution from Westminster of those two taxes, in order that they can be abolished.

With the UK Government having recently committed to phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, and with the advancement of production and battery technology rapidly leading to more affordable EVs, Reform Scotland sees Fuel Duty as a tax living on borrowed time, as well as a tax which fails to take account of which roads are being used, and when.

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), meanwhile, while addressing carbon emissions through its grading structure, punishes those who drive infrequently by charging them the same as motorists who drive on a regular basis.

Reform Scotland’s pay-as-you-drive system would require drivers to pay based on which roads they use and when they use them.

Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison 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.”