Chapter 7.2.4 Road user charging

Introduce a climate-based MoT levy

The Scottish Government should introduce a climate-based levy on annual MoT tests

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Such a policy will impose real carbon costs on those who pollute, linked to the degree of pollution generated; it will also incentivise a substantial shift to electric vehicles and, where possible, to personal use of active and public transport – in turn driving improvements in congestion, air pollution and public health. Importantly such a policy protects those who live in remoter areas, where there is often no real alternative to use of personal vehicles.

The 2020 travel survey found that 50% to 60% of relatively poorer households in Scotland had no access to a car, whereas it was 5% or less for wealthier households.191 In the 2019 Scottish Household Survey, it appears that in rural areas about 15% of households have no access to a car, compared to 28% nationwide and, for example, 47% in Glasgow.192

Nonetheless, policies should be carefully designed to give extra support to groups who will find it harder to transition away from fossil fuels, including those on lower income who currently do not have realistic alternatives to the car for essential journeys.

The current UK cost of carbon, under the UK emissions trading scheme, is about £80 per tonne of CO2. So, the social cost/value of Scottish road emissions is about £800m per year. It would be logical to reflect this cost in reality and to adopt an appropriate mechanism which would, consequently, also change behaviours and reduce emissions, while recognising and delivering the social imperatives of supporting poorer and more remote communities.

The average age of road vehicles is 8 years, so relatively few are below the age (3 years) of the first legally-required MoT.

The national MoT system is entirely electronic, and can access information on the postcode of the registered owner, the make of vehicle and engine type, as well as the recorded mileage and, therefore, the distance travelled over the previous year.

An automated system could easily calculate the supplement, or levy, to be added to the fixed cost of the MoT, dependent on geographical location, vehicle emissions and annual mileage.

This might, for example, range from zero for an electric car in a remote location, for whatever mileage is recorded, to a rather substantial sum for a large diesel SUV, doing a high mileage, and used in an urban area where there is easy access to alternative active and public transport (walking, cycling, rail, bus, taxis, car-clubs). The Scottish Government already has a 3-level classification of geographical areas, which can easily be linked to postcode, for remote rural, accessible rural and urban areas.193

To gather in a total return approaching, say, £800m per year would entail an average levy of around £250 per vehicle per year. So, it could be that levies would typically be set ranging from zero at one end of the scale to, perhaps, £500 at the other extreme.

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Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.