Scottish councils will receive the power to introduce a workplace parking levy despite Labour joining the Conservatives to oppose it.
The Scottish Government’s SNP administration is committed to supporting a Green Party amendment to the Transport (Scotland) Bill that will give councils a discretionary power to introduce a levy on parking spaces at workplaces. The SNP agreed to support the amendment as part of its deal with the Greens to pass the Government’s 2019/20 budget.
The ruling SNP administrations on Edinburgh and Glasgow councils have both expressed interest in using the parking levy power.
But Labour MSP Colin Smyth told Parliament the party did not support the power. “One of my deep concerns is that, if a car parking tax was introduced by the City of Edinburgh Council, thousands of workers, including my constituents who live in Midlothian, the Borders, South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway, many of whom are on low incomes and are priced out of the Edinburgh housing market, would have to pay the tax because they would have no choice but to use their car to get to work.
“However, they and their local councillors would not have a say in whether the tax was introduced in Edinburgh, and not a penny raised would be spent on public transport in Midlothian or the south of Scotland.”
The GMB, Unite and ASLEF trade unions oppose the levy.
Transport secretary Michael Matheson reminded MSPs that the SNP’s support for the Green amendment was contingent on hospitals and NHS premises being exempt from the levy.
Although the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee has completed its scrutiny of the Bill, it will reconvene to take evidence on the parking levy amendment.
Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles criticised the procedure through which the amendment will be introduced. “The Scottish Government will whip its MSPs to support an amendment to the Bill that its MSPs have not even seen,” he said. “The fact is that the majority of members – that is, all the Scottish National Party and Green members – have been told that they must vote for the amendment when it eventually comes to the committee. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter what drafting problems might be found and no matter what unintended consequences might be seen as a result of detailed scrutiny of the legislation, it will just be voted through by the committee.”
Rumbles added: “I have a lot of respect for the cabinet secretary – I consider him to be a responsible minister, and I do not blame him for something that has been foisted on him – but that is no way to pass legislation. A responsible Government would not behave in that way. I never thought that our strong committee system, as established in 1999, would ever end up being misused in such a way.”
Former SNP transport minister Stewart Stevenson said he would be reluctant to support the amendment if the levy was placed on individuals rather than employers. The power in England applies to employers in the first instance.
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