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They will put forward a proposal at next week’s full council meeting, calling for the authority to move forward with existing plans for a levy which would see big businesses charged for each parking space they provide for staff.The SNP says the measure could raise around £10 million a year which it would ring-fence to fund improvements in public transport and active travel.
Although the SNP emerged from last month’s local elections as the largest party, its plans to form an administration with the Greens were thwarted when Labour won the backing of Lib Dems and Tories to take power.
Labour used to support a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) but is now opposed to the policy and the Tories will also vote against. The SNP can rely on Green backing for the idea and it hopes for support from the Lib Dems, whose election manifesto said they would “consider carefully” any scheme and “consult widely”.
The SNP said the levy should apply only to the biggest employers with the most parking spaces.
Former transport convener Lesley Macinnes, who will propose the motion at Thursday’s meeting, said: “After 12 years of Tory austerity, public sector budgets in Scotland are under huge pressure. A WPL would enable the council to boost its income substantially and deliver the transformative active and public transport improvements that Edinburgh’s residents clearly want.
“With the cost-of-living crisis, people are understandably looking at more sustainable, cheaper options like buses, trams, cycling and walking to get around Edinburgh. The revenue raised from this proposal would help to make those options easier and more viable for more of our residents.
“Nottingham City Council, run by Labour since its establishment, has had a highly successful WPL for a decade now. Labour in Edinburgh supported this policy until just before the election. It’s been so disappointing to see Labour in Scotland turn against this common-sense proposal, which can deliver so much positive change.
“The WPL would only apply to some of the biggest and wealthiest companies in Edinburgh. We would work to prevent such employers from passing the cost onto employees. The revenue raised from it would go towards improving the vital connections we all rely on.
“There is potential here for the SNP, the Greens and the Lib Dems to get together to drive this idea forward given our similar manifesto commitments. We all expect the Tories to be on the side of big business and against positive change. But why wouldn’t Labour back this?”
Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said: “We think it’s worth looking at how a WPL could work in Edinburgh, but it’s important there is as much carrot as there is stick. It’s a good idea to start the work on how it would look in reality, but a lot of the devil is in the detail and we would need to see exactly how it would work in practice.”
Labour’s transport convener Scott Arthur said: “A number of people have raised concerns about the unintended consequences of a WPL. If the SNP and Greens can bring forward a comprehensive proposals which answers some of those concerns we would be happy to consider it.”