Derek Mackay has accused opponents of “scaremongering” over controversial plans to introduce a new workplace parking levy in Scotland.
But the finance secretary admitted that he has not carried out any economic analysis of the likely impact of the plan – and said there was a case for “further exemptions” to workers other than NHS staff.
The measure - dubbed the “car tax” - was at the heart of last week’s budget agreement with the Greens and could see Scots charged up to £400 a year for parking at work.
It has already met with a backlash from motoring organisations and business leaders and Mr Mackay was grilled on he plan as he appeared before Holyrood’s Finance committee yesterday.
Labour MSP Neil Bibby questioned whether any Government research had been carried out on the proposed workplace parking levy.
“Would it not be beneficial for you to carry out an economic modelling and impact assessment on this policy given what you say about you’re number one priority is growing the economy? “ Mr Bibby asked.
Mr Mackay the purpose of the Parliamentary process was that these issues could be addressed as the plans are considered by MSPs. Transport Secretary Michael Matheson will now be charged with implementing the new car tax.
“No I haven’t undertaken any individual economic analysis,” Mr Mackay said.
“This about empowerment of local government. It was a necessary budget concession because if there was no budget the consequences were that a £42.5 billion budget for Scotland would have gone down.”
He said the Scottish Parliament and councils should “consult and engage” before deploying this power. NHS workers will be exempt from the scheme. Teaching unions are now calling for schools to be excluded and it was put to Mr
Mackay today that the police, firefighters, apprentices, as well as low income and rural workers could all be similarly exempt.
“I do happen to think there’s case for further exemptions and I do happen to think that local authorities should look very carefully at local circumstances before taking this forward.”
Tory MSP Alexander Burnett said he had been made aware of widespread concerns about the new car tax, including rural teachers and students attending college.
Mr Mackay said the power already exists in “Tory-run England” and said it was at an early stage.
It now be taken forward by Holyrood’s Rural Affairs and Connectivity committee as part of the Transport Bill and a consultation will be carried out by MSPs, he added.
He added: “This is at an early stage, if Mr Burnett wishes, maybe he should advise some of the correspondents that he’s had on this matter of that, rather than scaremonger about who may or may not be paying this levy.”
He added: “Members shouldn’t scaremonger on this, should work with parliament in a constructive and collaborative fashion to get a scheme that’s right for the country and right for local authorities and right for local people.”
He revealed that he held talks with business organisations yesterday to discuss the budget and claimed that concerns over the workplace levy were “as nothing” compared with their fears over the “financial catastrophe” of Brexit.
Mr Burnett said the parking levy has only been implemented once in England - in Nottingham - and that was in conjunction with a tram scheme.