Council profits from parking charges have risen by a fifth in recent years, according to figures obtained by the RAC.
Local authorities generated £36.1 million in surplus revenue from parking activities in 2014/15, compared with £30.1 million in 2011/12, an RAC analysis of council returns to the Scottish Government found.
Edinburgh had the biggest surplus at £17.4 million, followed by Glasgow at £11.4 million and Aberdeen at £4.5 million, with the three cities generating 92 per cent of the entire surplus generated in Scotland.
Council umbrella body Cosla said charges are designed to manage demand and can be avoided if drivers obey the rules.
Local authorities spent £39.3 million managing their parking activities. Once these costs are subtracted from the income then a surplus or deficit is left.
There were 17 councils in surplus, 13 in deficit while two did not return accounts.
North Ayrshire Council spent £630,000 more managing its parking activities than it generated in charges.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These numbers reveal where the money is being made from parking, and where it is not.
“Some of the variance will simply be down to the size of towns and cities. But it will also reflect parking policies.
“Some councils will actively be keeping the price of parking down to attract shoppers to high streets, which might still be feeling the after-effects of the recession. Elsewhere charges might be used to manage demand for limited spaces.
“Where large surpluses are being generated there are undoubtedly long lists of worthy transport schemes waiting to be funded. High on that list will be road maintenance. Like the rest of the UK, Scottish roads are not immune to potholes.”
A Cosla spokesman said: “Cosla members, as the figures suggest, do not have large surpluses on parking accounts.
“Charges are in place to manage demand or modal choice into towns and cities across Scotland for a range of wider community benefits.
“As the RAC observes, a number of councils already do not charge for parking in certain locations or are in the process of removing charges to try and increase footfall, but this itself threatens the business case for decriminalised parking in certain local authority areas.
“It is a difficult balancing act for councils, further complicated by a significant number of off-street parking spaces which the councils do not control.
“Many member councils didn’t want to adopt decriminalised parking but the removal of Police Scotland traffic wardens have placed an additional cost in terms of enforcement.
“However, it is worth remembering that enforcement and the use of fines as deterrents could be an avoided cost if individual motorists obeyed traffic regulation orders and parking conditions accordingly for the benefit of the whole community.”