Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Pay-as-you-drive: the road to a better future

Executive Summary

In 2009, Reform Scotland’s Power to Connect report looked briefly at the issue of road pricing and the potential benefits it could offer. The purpose of Pay-as-you-drive: the road to a better future is to expand on our previous work, explaining how, using the powers Devo Plus would give the Scottish Parliament, a road pricing system could be introduced in Scotland to replace existing fuel and vehicle taxes.

The report considers how such a scheme could work in Scotland and why it would help to reduce carbon emissions, reduce congestion and provide a fairer and more effective method of paying for use of road space. The report also analyses what could be learnt from elsewhere, as well as how what is traditionally seen as an unpopular policy could gain public support.


  • Cars remain a huge contributor to road transport carbon emissions. While all other sectors saw a reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2008, the transport sector, which accounted for 22% of total Scottish emissions (not including international aviation and shipping) was 7% higher.
  • Official Scottish figures estimating the volume of traffic on Scottish roads suggest that, while there has been little change on minor roads, there has been a 12% increase in traffic on Scotland’s motorways between 2003 and 2011.
  • Little progress has been made in meeting either the Scottish Government’s National Indicator to reduce the proportion of driver journeys delayed due to traffic congestion or the National Indicator aimed at increasing the proportion of journeys to work made by public or active transport.
  • There is roughly a 15p difference in the cost of a litre of petrol between the cheapest areas and most expensive. That means rural drivers filling up a 70 litre tank (such as in a Ford Mondeo) pay over £10 more at the pump.
  • Official figures also suggest that people living in more remote areas have less access to public transport alternatives.
  • While there has been a 13% increase in the total number of vehicles licensed in Scotland between 2003 and 2011, and a slight increase in the estimated volume of traffic on Scotland’s roads, revenue raised from fuel duty and vehicle excise duty has stayed virtually static


Pay as you drive