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Easter Ross MP challenges UK government over 'urban-centric' electric vehicle policy

By Alan Hendry

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The five-day EV Rally of Scotland, promoting the use of electric vehicles, came to Caithness last week. Picture: Alan Hendry
The five-day EV Rally of Scotland, promoting the use of electric vehicles, came to Caithness last week. Picture: Alan Hendry

EASTER Ross MP Jamie Stone has accused the UK government of adopting an "urban-centric" policy on funding for electric vehicles.

He claimed that people living in rural areas were being treated as an "afterthought" and would be discouraged from switching to environmentally friendly EVs.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, asked the Department for Transport if it has assessed the potential merits of weighting plug-in vehicle grants towards rural postcodes. In a written answer, transport minister Trudy Harrison stated that doing so "could increase the complexity of the scheme" while increasing the risk of fraud.

Mr Stone said: “We all know there are additional challenges facing people in rural areas in switching to electric and hybrid vehicles – from sparse charging infrastructure to journey distances that exceed the typical range of today’s electric vehicle batteries.

“To dismiss rural weighting out of hand because it might add 'complexity' to the government’s existing scheme is frankly insulting. People living in rural parts of the UK are being treated as an afterthought by the urban-centric Department of Transport.

“If the government wants to level up the entire country, as Boris Johnson so often claims, it should begin by recognising the additional support that rural communities will require to reach net-zero.”

Mrs Harrison told Mr Stone: "Government grants have been available since 2010 to incentivise more people to make the transition to electric vehicles – so far nearly £1.5 billion has been invested, supporting the purchase of over 410,000 vehicles.

"The grants are offered at the point of sale across the UK on all eligible vehicles and are factored into the advertised price.

"We have not made an assessment of the merits of weighting plug-in vehicle grants towards rural areas. Doing this could increase the complexity of the scheme and increase the risk of fraud.

"Government has recently committed an additional £620m to support the transition to electric vehicles in addition to the £582m committed for the plug-in vehicle grant schemes at Spending Review 2020. This additional funding will be focused on supporting the rollout of charging infrastructure and targeted plug-in vehicle grants.

"The government also offers generous tax incentives including favourable company car tax rates for EVs. These rates have been a strong driver of sales and are confirmed until 2024/25. Local areas can also put in their own measures to encourage EV ownership, such as reduced rates for residential parking permits."

The exchange came a week after a convoy of 23 electric vehicles arrived in Caithness as part of the EV Rally of Scotland, linked to the COP26 conference. Key messages from the five-day tour were that EVs are not just for short, urban journeys and that electric cars are a viable alternative to traditional petrol and diesel models.

Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, said that per head of population the north of Scotland is one of the best regions in the UK for charging points.

There are now 76 EV chargers across the Highland Council area.

Do you have an electric car or are you planning one? Do you agree with these comments? Shasre your view. Email newsdesk@hnmedia.co.uk

Highland Council to introduce electric vehicle charging points

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