Comment: The risk is that enforcement will be patchy

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as with so many other ill-thought out ideas, it is the regular law abiding citizens who
 are likely to suffer as a result of the plan to charge for car parking by East Lothian’s beaches. The problem with charges of this kind is that they have to be enforced if they are to raise the kind of sums that councillors expect and if, crucially, they are going to be fair. There is a difficulty here for East Lothian Council as it seeks to impose its planned £2-a-day fees – it doesn’t employ any traffic wardens to check that visitors are paying up.

That leaves the council in the uncomfortable position of having to rely on Police Scotland to do the dirty work of issuing fines for them. The chances of the police officers patroling the car parks to catch offenders? Zero.

That is not to denigrate Police Scotland, who have far higher priorities than effectively acting as a debt collection agency for the local authority. You only have to look at the front page of this newspaper for a reminder of the scale of the job officers have on their hands dealing with serious crime.

It is not clear whether the council intends to send its own staff to the ten car parks affected to jot down the licence plates of offenders to send them on to the police. The very bureaucratic nightmare that critics, including this newspaper, warned of as the local authority drew up its plans. The obvious risk is that this labour-intensive enforcement will also be very patchy, leaving it open to abuse, with only the honest paying up.

The argument over whether or not the charge was fair to levy in the first place will rage on. The cash-strapped council will point to the cost of maintaining facilities against arguments for keeping access as open as possible to one of the most beautiful stretches of the Scottish countryside. Few will think it sensible, though, that parking by the beach without paying, as everyone is currently free to do all around Scotland, will soon effectively be criminalised in East Lothian.