A hot political topic in Parliament at the moment is the workplace parking levy. As part of the budget process back in February, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay, announced that the Scottish Government would support Green amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill to give local authorities the power to levy an annual charge on workplace car parks. As the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee had already completed its stage 1 consideration of the bill—which, as introduced, contained no provisions dealing with workplace parking, so the subject did not form part of the stage 1 scrutiny process—the committee decided to hold evidence sessions on the topic prior to the stage 2 amendment process.
Two weeks ago, the committee took evidence via videoconference from Nottingham City Council, which introduced a workplace parking levy in 2012—English and Welsh local authorities already have the power to do so—as well as hearing from representatives of Scottish local authorities. Among the issues that the witnesses were questioned on was, if a WPL was such a good idea, why only one English local authority had implemented one. Professor Stephen Ison of Loughborough University, who has carried out research on the scheme in Nottingham, admitted that he was
“perplexed about why the scheme has not been copied.”
At last week’s meeting of the REC Committee, Sue Flack, representing Transform Scotland, who worked on the development of the levy in Nottingham, revealed that a number of English councils, including those in Reading, Birmingham, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge, had started preparing to introduce a WPL.
Labour’s Colin Smyth was particularly concerned about constituents of his in the south of Scotland who drive to Edinburgh paying a levy to a council whose use of the funds would not benefit transport in their area. The response of Stuart Douglas of Paths for All was that
“It is the cities that have to deal with the congestion and pollution that are caused by commuters driving in”.
Earlier in the meeting, the committee had heard from a panel of business and union representatives, who were concerned about the impacts of the approach proposed in John Finnie’s amendments and sceptical about its benefits. Helen Martin of the Scottish Trades Union Congress explained her organisation’s opposition:
“We are not in favour of the levy, primarily because it could fall heavily on low-paid workers and because it does not fit well with other elements of the bill.”
If you’d like to find out more about the workplace parking levy, there’s an informative Scottish Parliament information centre Spotlight on the subject. The REC Committee begins its stage 2 consideration of the Transport (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday.