Congestion charging in Edinburgh: Some lessons on acceptability


J Saunders

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

policy - congestion


It is widely accepted that the problem of traffic congestion within Scotland’s capital city is beyond acceptable tolerance levels. However, finding consensus on solutions to this problem is fraught with difficulty. Congestion charging was proposed by the City of Edinburgh Council as a means to tackle congestion and facilitate a significant increase in public transport investment – but this was rejected by the Edinburgh public in a referendum. The paper aims to provide some insight into the lessons that can be learnt from this rejection not only for road pricing schemes, but for other controversial measures. It will discuss the consideration given to public acceptance issues in the development and design of the charging scheme. It will examine the influence of the criteria for Ministerial approval set out in Scottish Executive guidance, and will compare the Edinburgh approach to development of an ‘acceptable’ scheme to practice in other charging projects and to theoretical research. The technical and political decisions taken on configuration of the scheme as it evolved will be examined in the context of these issues. Particular attention will be given to the responses to the proposed scheme from diverse socio-economic and interest groups, and from geographical communities in and around the city. The paper will give some consideration to how these groups interpreted the implications of the scheme and whether these interpretations were expected. The paper will primarily be based on material from the scheme evolution up to the referendum.


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.