MSPs reject calls to scrap parking levy for councils
A bid to ditch controversial plans on work place parking charges has failed.
A bid to ditch controversial plans on work place parking charges from legislation has failed.
In a vote at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, a Scottish Labour amendment calling for the removal of the proposal from the Transport (Scotland) Bill was rejected by 65 votes to 54.
The controversial measure is being introduced after the Scottish Government reached a deal with the Scottish Greens to agree its budget earlier this year.
It will give local authorities the choice of whether to impose the levy. If they chose to then do so, employers would have to pay an annual tax to the council for every parking space that they provide - however, this cost could be passed onto staff.
Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who lodged an amendment to remove the provision from the Bill, said that it would penalise working people.
"Be in no doubt, this levy is a regressive tax on workers that will the lowest paid hardest," said Mr Bibby. "It is not consequence-free, it is not fundamentally a solution to climate change and far from incentivising modal shift, it penalises those for whom modal shift is not an option.
"It's not an option because for many working people, public transport in Scotland is simply not good enough."
He added: "The SNP aren't listening - they will not listen to the trade unions, they will not listen to the business community, and they will not listen to the people of Scotland themselves.
"This proposal has served no other purpose than to give the Scottish Green Party a reason to vote for an SNP budget.
"An SNP budget which has slashed core funding for councils, the very councils they say this levy is supposed to support."
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson accused Scottish Labour of "hypocrisy" over their opposition to the proposal, highlighting the introduction of a similar scheme at the Labour-run Nottingham City council.
Mr Matheson also said that the proposal was a "power, not a duty" for councils. "John Finnie's amendments introduced at stage two bring in a modest, discretionary power for local authorities to introduce such a scheme," he said.
"It's a power, not a duty. There is a high degree of local decision making in how a scheme is set up, with local authorities having wide powers to shape how that scheme is shaped to meet local needs. "
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said the only reason the workplace parking levy was included in the Bill was because of the budget deal that was agreed by the Government.
"What I find amazing is that the SNP administration didn't have to do it and that's what surprises me," said Mr Rumbles.
Addressing the Scottish Government, he added: "You've landed yourselves with something you didn't need to do."
Speaking in support of efforts to remove the levy from the Bill, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: "The simple fact is that the car park tax is a bad idea.
"It is a bad idea because it is a regressive tax likely to cost up to £500 a year which will hit lowest paid workers the hardest.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "Workplace parking levies are a charter for extra cost and complexity and it is disappointing MSPs are backing them.
"The introduction of a levy will see firms' taxed twice for the parking places they provide for staff, on top of the business rates already paid on those spaces.
"The dearth any business and regulatory impact assessment to accompany the introduction of this new tax is bewildering."
The Scottish Government has already specified that NHS sites would not be included in any charging scheme brought in by local councils.