There are few subjects in this city of ours guaranteed to generate as much heat – of the sort that often produces little light – as that of transport.
Recently, the city council published its proposals for its future transport strategy and one of the issues highlighted as being potentially divisive was that of ending free parking on Sundays, so this was one of the issues put out to consultation.
A number of city centre churches made representations about this aspect of the proposals and the overall mood of the churches was one of concern. The concerns were not, as some might suppose, a kind of self-interested plea for special treatment over other visitors to the city centre. Instead, they focused on the significant service offered by churches to vulnerable people for whom the gathering of their church community on a Sunday is one of their principal sources of support. Many of these vulnerable people rely on cars to get them to church – often cars driven by volunteers – as they do not find it easy to access public transport and may not qualify for other forms of help with transport.
I am pleased, therefore, to see that the council is now proposing a compromise which will allow for the continuation of free Sunday parking, with restrictions in the afternoon. This is good news for the many vulnerable citizens who rely on cars to get them to the churches which offer them support and spiritual nourishment.
It seems to me that this solution also meets the concern of the transport planners in keeping the traffic moving around the city while encouraging more use of public transport for those who are able. No solution is perfect, and I am sure that there will be others who find this compromise unsatisfactory, but it does seem to meet the needs of most of those for whom the city centre churches were concerned. It is easy to be cynical about the political process, but this compromise is a good example of effective consultation and creative problem solving.
• The Rev Canon John McLuckie is Vice-Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral