SNP Transport Secretary defends ‘car parking tax’ as necessary for the environment

Achieving Scotland’s climate change targets will require “difficult decisions” to be made, according to the Transport Secretary.

Michael Matheson. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Michael Matheson. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

At a fringe event at the SNP conference, Michael Matheson said that meeting targets means that the Government may have to take forward policies that the public “may initially push back on”.

It comes after the SNP’s Transport Bill, which included a controversial move to give councils the power to introduce a workplace parking levy, was passed at Holyrood last week.

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The levy was opposed by Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“I suspect the vast majority of people in here agree that we need to tackle climate change and that we set really ambitious targets in Scotland,” said Mr Matheson.

“We’re world leaders in taking forward a range of the initiatives that are necessary in order to achieve net zero and it’s great that Scotland is showing that leadership. But it also means taking difficult decisions.

“Look at the political debate that took place just over, not introducing workplace parking levies, merely giving a power to local authorities to choose to do so if they wish to.

“So if opposition parties are serious about tackling issues such as poor air quality in our city centres and to make sure that we achieve our climate change ambitions, it does mean that you have to make some difficult decisions.

“And it does mean you have to take forward initiatives that the public may initially push back on, unless you explain them properly and give them a clear rationale, an explanation, as to why it’s necessary.

“So there is a real need for politicians, and I don’t say this for party political purposes, to be genuine and to be prepared to step up to the plate and to show leadership in the debate, rather than just looking for the easy hit on the Government, than be prepared to take something forward. Because if political leaders across the parties don’t show that leadership, it will compromise progress.”

Mr Matheson also said that it “lacked maturity” for Labour MSP Jenny Marra to tweet a photo of several ministerial cars lined up outside Holyrood at the end of the seven-hour debate on the Transport Bill before the final vote.

“There’s an issue about the maturity of the debate,” said Mr Matheson. “So the person who took the picture doesn’t support workplace parking levies, apparently, because it was a Labour Party member that took the picture.

“It was broadcast across the media, particularly those within the media who are completely opposed to the idea of workplace parking levies.

“To me it just shows a lack of maturity in the debate. Is this seriously the level we’re at when it comes to dealing with these issues?”

Also speaking at the fringe event, Mari Tunby, head of policy at CBI Scotland, suggested that the workplace parking policy had not been “really thought through” and a “bigger vision” was needed.

Ms Tunby said: “You’re pushing this levy onto businesses primarily who have parking that they have there as a service for their staff to make it easier for them to come to work.

“That is, a lot of the time, because the public transport to those places of work isn’t good enough.”