The Workplace Parking Levy takes no account of the ability to pay, whether drivers have the option of leaving their car at home and is a fundamentally unfair tax, writes Miles Briggs.
Last week SNP and Green MSPs passed the Workplace Parking Levy as part of stage three of the Transport Bill. This new legislation gives local authorities across Scotland the power to implement a tax of up to £500 on workers who park at their place of work. The Labour-SNP coalition which runs Edinburgh council has already said that they will introduce the new tax on workers, which could be in place as soon as next year.
Under the new legislation, companies will have the option of absorbing the cost of the tax for each parking space or passing it on to the workers themselves. The tax doesn’t take into consideration someone’s salary, so an employee on £10,000 a year would pay the same amount as someone on £100,000 a year.
This new ‘Car Park Tax’ does not make any exemptions for workers who have no choice to park at their place of work. SNP and Green MSPs also repeatedly voted against amendments to exempt teachers, police officers, social workers, prison officers, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Air Ambulance, charities, veterinary practices and the lifeboat service amongst others from the levy.
Fort Kinnaird retail park, at Newcraighall, has spoken out against the new tax and the risk it causes to businesses and their employees.
In Edinburgh, businesses already have to pay huge business rates to the council and the Workplace Parking Levy would be another burden on struggling businesses.
Also, employees who work shift patterns have to be on site at hours when transport links are often not available, and travel by car is the only safe and practical option for some.
Police concerned about safety
Another organisation which has raised concerns about the levy is Police Scotland, which is concerned for the safety of their officers. Police Scotland has warned that services could be cut and police officers would be put at risk as they would have to travel to work on public transport to avoid the levy.
This new tax means that a person who lives in an adjacent local authority to Edinburgh, such as Midlothian, West Lothian, East Lothian or the Borders, could be charged an extra £500 by Edinburgh Council, despite having no vote in the council elections.
Many people find driving a better option, with the cost of ScotRail trains soaring, constant delays, cancellations and overcrowding, which makes taking the train much less attractive.
It is estimated that the 56,000 drivers travel into Edinburgh from surrounding local authorities to their place of employment and 54,000 travel within Edinburgh. So approximately 110,000 workers will be impacted by this new tax, many of whom have no choice but to drive to their place of work.
The Workplace Parking Levy has not been properly thought through and the impact on families in the capital and surrounding areas has not been considered.
It is a fundamentally unfair tax that charges hard-working people to get to their place of work and will have a significant impact on families budgets, with some families being hit twice by this indiscriminate tax.
Tens of thousands of workers will be affected by this charge, with £500 straight out of their pay cheque, just for getting to work. SNP ministers must, for once, listen to people and seriously rethink this deeply flawed new legislation that targets hard-working people across Scotland.
Miles Briggs is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian