Scotland Workplace Parking Levy: what is the new workplace parking tax and how much will I pay?

(Photo: Shutterstock)(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)
Councils in Scotland will be able to charge a levy on workplace parking under a new law passed by MSPs.

The controversial Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) is part of the Transport Bill that was passed by the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 10 October.

Approved by a vote of 56 to 29, with 18 MSPs abstaining, its aim is to encourage employees to walk, cycle or take public transport to work.

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It's said that money raised from the new tax will benefit local services, but opponents to the scheme say businesses and their employees will both take a financial hit from the levy, and the WPL won't actually encourage people to leave their cars at home.

What is the WPL?

Councils will now have the power to choose whether they implement the WPL in their local authority area as part of a budget agreement with the Green Party.

The scheme is not being brought in nationally by default, and councils will get their own say on how to manage it if they do implement it.

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If introduced, employers and businesses would have to pay an annual levy to their local council for every parking space provided to their employees.

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It would then be up to the employers to decided whether to subsidise their payments by asking employees to pay a charge for using their spaces.

Will it work?

A similar scheme was introduced in Nottingham in 2012, and serves as the inspiration behind the SNP's plans.

In Nottingham employers who provide more than 10 parking spaces pay a charge to the city council for each space; eight out of 10 workers then have the costs passed on to them.

Since its inception, the Nottingham tax has raised roughly £9 million a year.

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A number of vehicles and spaces are exempt from Nottingham's scheme, including staff parking at hospitals and other NHS premises, motorbikes, customer vehicles, and vehicles that are used to deliver goods.

While the Scottish government has made it clear that NHS workers will not have to pay the levy, they haven't commented on which other vehicles may be exempt.

Using Nottingham as an example, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre was able to construct a "tentative estimate" of how many people would pay the charge if it were to be introduced to Edinburgh.

It calculated Edinburgh has roughly 39,000 workplace parking places which would be liable for the charge under the the WPL, but with more than 330,000 people working in the city, the centre said the majority would be unaffected by the change.

Why is it controversial?

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"What we need to get people out of their cars, is to provide better public transport." motoring journalist Alan Douglas told the BBC.

"The fact is people use their cars because the public transport is not there, and we have seen from the problems with ScotRail that people would want to use it but they can't depend on it so they use their cars as the best alternative."

The proposals haven't won favour with everybody, with critics saying that many people are unable to get public transport to work, far less walk or cycle.

But supporters say the scheme has helped pay towards improvements to public transport, which are predicted to take 2.5 million car journeys off the roads each year, while cutting pollution and carbon emissions and reducing travel times for people who do still use their cars.

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Alex Quayle, of Sustainable Transport Scotland, said the Nottingham scheme had clearly been very successful in encouraging people to change their commuting habits.

When will I have to pay to park at work, and how much?

There's no word yet on how much individuals will have to pay if the costs of the WPL are passed on to them from their employers, and this will likely fluctuate widely by individual companies, dependant on factors like company size.

In the Nottingham model, employers who provide more than 10 parking spaces for their staff pay about £415 a year for each space.

Likewise, there are no confirmed dates as to when the WPL might come in to force, and with councils given the option whether or not to implement it, details will vary by region.

So far only Glasgow and Edinburgh have suggested that they plan to impose the levy.