FM clashes with Tories over controversial workplace parking levy

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Nicola Sturgeon has defended controversial plans to give local councils the power to introduce a workplace parking levy as part of the Scottish Government’s budget.

The First Minister clashed with Jackson Carlaw, interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, after he branded her the “cheerleader in chief” for the policy, which he said would see workers “being punished” for driving their car to work.

The Tory insisted people could end up paying hundreds of pounds a year for the “back of a fag packet policy”, which the minority SNP administration included in its budget for 2019-20 to win the support of Green MSPs.

Mr Carlaw told the SNP leader: “Thousands of Scots every day commute across Scotland into Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“Could the First Minister explain to them why a car park tax imposed on them, by a local authority whose politicians they don’t elect and in whose region they don’t live, is a good example of local decision making?”

A future workplace parking levy could also see a call centre worker earning less than £20,000 a year having to pay the same amount as a company director earning five times as much, he added.

Challenging Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions the Tory continued: “It is a tax that says to people across this country, trying to do the right thing, trying to juggle school drop-offs with work, trying to keep Scotland going, and in many cases working unsociable hours when there is no public transport provision, that they are to be punished.”

But Ms Sturgeon hit back, telling the Tory it would be for local councils to bring in such a charge if that was they wanted.

She responded: “Jackson Carlaw knows the SNP Government would not impose anything on anybody.

“This is a discretionary power that councils in England already have. It would be a proposed levy that councils could propose on employers not employees.”

The First Minister went on to note that the Tories “used to believe” that “decisions should be taken as locally as possible and that powers should lie with politicians elected as locally as possible” – telling MSPs: “I’m not sure when they changed their minds on that.”

Ms Sturgeon said Tory councillors on the City of Edinburgh Council had proposed and backed a motion last year which noted “the merits in principle of pursuing the power for Edinburgh to introduce a workplace parking levy”.

She also claimed several Tory-run local authorities had recently increased car parking chargings – saying councillors in Argyll and Bute had upped fees in Arrochar by 800%.

“The Tories don’t want to give powers to councils because clearly the Tories don’t trust Tory councils,” the First Minister said.

Pressed on whether she backed the new charge, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “I back councils having the power to decide, because we don’t preach localism and empowering councils, we practice that principle.”

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