SNP ministers deny workplace parking charges amount to ‘tax on workers’

SNP ministers have denied controversial plans to give councils the power to introduce workplace parking charges amount to a “tax on workers”.

Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 2:55 pm

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth defended the scheme as a last-ditch bid to derail it was voted down by MSPs.

Scottish Conservative MSP Graham Simpson had pushed for regulations associated with the workplace parking levy to be annulled.

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Concerns have been raised about the impact of the workplace parking levy. Picture: Jason Chadwick

He insisted it was the “wrong time” for the plans, adding: “It's an attack on employers, it's bad for employees, it's bad for jobs, it's bad for the recovery from the pandemic.

"It's the wrong time for businesses, it's the wrong time for staff and it should be stopped."

Ms Gilruth said the Tory MSP was attempting to deny Scottish councils the same powers as their counterparts in England.

The scheme, which is set to come into force next month, will enable councils to charge employers for office parking spaces. Firms could then pass this cost on to staff.

Nottingham became the first council in the UK to introduce the measure in 2012, and charges £428 a year per space.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are among those interested in following suit.

But business leaders have raised concerns about the move, with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce insisting it should be “scrapped or, at a minimum, further deferred”.

The Scottish Government agreed to hand councils the powers to introduce a charge for workplace parking back in 2019, as part of budget deal with the Scottish Greens.

Holyrood will further debate the proposals on Wednesday, but ahead of this the Tories forced a vote on the issue at the Scottish Parliament’s net zero, energy and transport committee.

Ms Gilruth said the regulations Mr Simpson was seeking to annul simply provided "the detail which gives local authorities the power to enact the legislation that was passed three years ago".

She said: "It is historic legislation and the reason it has not been taken forward before now is because of Covid."

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon pointed to “genuine concerns” the parking levy would "penalise workers”.

Ms Lennon asked: "What reassurance can you give workers today that this is not going to push them further into poverty and this deep cost-of-living crisis?"

Ms Gilruth said: “It’s important to remember the liability for the charge itself, the workplace parking levy, sits with employers, not with employees.

“And it’s a matter for employers whether or not they pass that cost on to employees. So, it’s not a tax on workers per se.”

Mr Simpson called for further exemptions to be outlined at a national level. NHS properties, GP surgeries, hospices and disabled parking spaces are already exempt.

Ms Gilruth said any other exemptions are for councils to decide.

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said it was "extraordinary" the Government had failed to model the impact of the scheme.

Ms Gilruth argued ministers “can't model something that doesn't exist” in Scotland, and highlighted the experience of Nottingham.

Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell said councils needed to be empowered and insisted the climate emergency had “accelerated”.

He said: "I really fear that this debate this morning has been a complete waste of time."

MSPs on the committee voted down Mr Simpson’s motion to annul by four votes to three, with the SNP and Greens backing the levy.