Scotland vote for tax on workplace car parks

Scottish MSPs have voted through plans to introduce a parking tax for employers, which would see businesses charged for providing workplace car parking spaces for staff

The amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill, proposed by John Finnie MSP, would give Scottish local authorities the powers to introduce a workplace parking levy (WPL), although it does allow for exemptions for all NHS sites, GP surgeries and hospices as well as blue badge holders, although police stations and schools would have to pay.

The workplace parking levy is a tax charge on premises and companies, not individuals or specific professions and would be operated by local authorities through a licensing scheme. The amount of the levy would be determined by the number of eligible parking spaces provided at a workplace, with the local authority setting the charge per space in the licensing scheme. Although business owners will be charged the levy, they could pass on their costs to employees.

The provisions set out in the draft Finnie amendment would ‘provide discretionary powers for local authorities to establish a WPL scheme, a devolved revenue-raising measure which promotes local decision making and allows councils to implement initiatives that best work with the specific considerations of their area’.

There is also provision that all excess profits raised from the schemes should be reinvested in public transport initiatives, while a penalty scheme would operate for non-compliance with licensing requirements.

‘Such measures have the potential to encourage modal shift towards public and sustainable transport and to enhance transport infrastructure and services in local areas, to the benefit of those who do not primarily travel by car,’ Finnie said. ‘In drafting these amendments, an approach has been taken to ensure that WPLs are viewed in a strategic local context and in alignment with other transport initiatives.’

The Scottish parliament’s Connectivity Committee is now considering amendments to the Bill and is reviewing responses to a recent survey to gather public reaction to the proposals. Nearly 5,000 responses were received, with 80% of business respondents to the survey opposed to the plans, but six in 10 individuals if favour.

Opposition to the proposals centred on the high level of tax already charged to motorists and to Scottish taxpayers generally, lack of Scottish government impact assessment of the benefits of such charges and a lack of public transport infrastructure and services.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Air Pilots Association (BALPA), representing professional pilots, wrote an open letter of finance secretary Derek Mackay MSP, expressing concerns about the introduction of the workplace parking levy. ‘Travelling by public transport to the airport for many is essentially impossible if pilots are to fulfil their professional obligations.

‘Report times in the very early hours of the morning are not uncommon when public transport is unlikely to be a realistic option for many, possibly outside of city centres.’

There was also criticism that workplace car parks were already subject to business rates, so the parking charge is effectively double taxation for businesses, and a cost that is likely to be passed on to employees.

Those in favour saw the measure as a way to reduce traffic congestion as well as bringing environmental benefits. including reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and encouraging use of public transport.  

Nottingham is the only council to have passed a local parking tax so far in the UK.

Transport (Scotland) Bill is at Stage 2 amendments.

Sara White

 

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