Alastair Dalton: Time may be finally running out for pavement parkers

The complexities involved in outlawing pavement parking in Scotland have been reflected in the tortuous path it has taken so far.
A van parked on the pavement in Cowgate in Edinburgh. Picture: Scott LoudenA van parked on the pavement in Cowgate in Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden
A van parked on the pavement in Cowgate in Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden

Three MSPs over the last eight years have sought to bring in legislation to ban what has become an increasingly familiar but unwelcome scourge for pedestrians.

Vehicles parked across pavements are irritating and potentially damaging, if not dangerous should people be forced onto the road.

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However, various difficulties have prevented success in introducing a ban, including whether the Scottish Parliament had the power.

That even prompted an MP to introduce a bill in the Commons seeking the power to be transferred to Holyrood - but that also failed.

However, that changed with the passage of the Scotland Act a year ago, and transport minister Humza Yousaf has now acted on the Scottish Government’s pledge, to “progress this important matter”.

It is due to form part of a wide-ranging transport bill which ministers are expected to introduced this autumn.

As a precursor, they have launched a consultation until the end of June, which contains fascinating details about how complicated the subject is.

It turns out that while parking on the pavement is not illegal north of the Border, it is an offence to drive onto the pavement - under Section 129(5) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

Another part of the same law also prohibits vehicles from causing “any unnecessary obstruction”, but there is no statutory definition of that.

In addition, although local authorities have the power to impose ban parking in specific places, the consultation document said the work involved and cost of producing the “traffic regulation orders” required meant councils had not regularly used them against pavement parking.

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Getting to grips with the issue has been a very long time coming, after provision was made in a road traffic law for a UK-wide ban 43 years ago. However, because of the need for secondary legislation, this has only been taken up and introduced in London.

But even there, there are exceptions to the restriction, such as on narrower roads.

So a ban in Scotland has been a very long time coming, but it certainly touched a nerve during MSPs’ previous attempts to bring it in.

One of them, in 2012, attracted the highest number of responses of any proposed private member’s bill (414), 95 per cent of which were supportive - the fifth highest.

However, some concerns were also raised about the proposal, such as its effect on displacing vehicles to other streets, causing extra pressure on parking space elsewhere.

There was also the worry that councils might use the measure as a “cash cow” by generating a new income stream from slapping parking tickets on errant motorists.

Mr Yousaf stated in the consultation document that he was committed to making the legal position on parking clearer.

However, he did not go any further than that, and the report includes little indication of what the Scottish Government will propose.

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Instead, it poses a series of questions of the public, such as whether they think a new law is needed, and what it should cover.

With ministers sitting on the fence - at least publicly - it will be pedestrians and drivers to make their views clear over the next three months as to what they think should happen.