Workplace parking levy: traffic, congestion and climate change

Gavin Corbett explains why he is angry about the workplace parking levy “debate”.

In a meeting of the city council last week councillors of all parties, including the Tories, backed a Green motion on the climate emergency. The world authority on climate change, the IPCC, has said we have 12 years to make transformative change to tackle this greatest challenge of our age. No serious politician contests this.

At the same time Edinburgh suffers from significant problems of traffic-based air pollution. Traffic grew in the city 7.5% from 2012-2017, the highest growth in any major Scottish city. And, over the last 4 decades, the cost of driving has fallen while public transport costs have soared.

Most serious politicians accept that, certainly in cities, step change is needed, to get people from cars onto mass transit and active travel like bikes and walking. It’s better for our personal health, our city and our planet.

English councils have had a power to introduce a workplace parking levy for a decade. This power was introduced by a Labour government and maintained on the statute book by the Tories ever since. The power to introduce a workplace parking levy, as demonstrated in Nottingham, can both help transport choices by adding a modest weekly cost to those minority of workers whose employers provide free workplace parking and raise £10s of millions for improved public transport.

In Nottingham, the levy has raised £53m to invest in public transport, use of which has gone up 15%. Traffic has declined 9% and carbon emissions 33%.

Despite all this, faced with a proposal to give Scottish councils a parallel discretionary power to introduce such a levy in the current Transport Bill, the first instinct of far too many politicians and other public figures, is to cut and run into the safe bosom of Daily Mail reactionary politics.

It’s shameful. If we spend the next 12 years (again, the IPCC timeframe) shirking every transport reform that tackles congestion, pollution & the climate crisis, we are screwed. More tragically, our kids are screwed. More than ever before Scotland needs leadership and smeddum.

That’s why I am angry.