On 10 October 2019, the Scottish Parliament passed the Transport (Scotland) Bill (the “Bill”). Introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June 2018, the Bill has attracted significant media attention during its passage through the parliamentary process, particularly in relation to the ‘workplace parking levy’.

However, the Bill’s provisions are wide-ranging, covering topics as diverse as the National Transport Strategy (the “NTS”), low emission zones (“LEZs”), bus services, smart ticketing, pavement parking, workplace parking, the Scottish Road Works Commissioner (the “SRWC”), road works, Regional Transport Partnerships (“RTPs”) and Scottish Canals.

Below is a summary of some of the key provisions of the Bill:

  • National Transport Strategy: the Scottish Ministers will have a duty to prepare an NTS and thereafter keep it under review. In preparing the NTS and any revision of the NTS, the Scottish Ministers must consult the general public and such other persons as they consider appropriate. While not part of the Bill, there is a policy intention for the preparation of the NTS and the National Planning Framework to be aligned to ensure better co-ordination between transport and planning policy.
  • Low Emission Zones: there are provisions to enable a local authority, either alone or in combination with another local authority, to make an LEZ scheme for all or part of their area. Such a scheme will require the approval of the Scottish Ministers and could be subject to examination at a hearing or inquiry in front of an appointed Reporter.Vehicles will need to meet a specified emissions standard, or be exempt under the terms of the LEZ scheme, to be entitled to drive on a road in the LEZ.Other vehicles will need to pay a penalty charge if they drive on a road within the LEZ, although the LEZ scheme must specify a grace period for residents within the LEZ as well as non-residents.
  • Bus Services: the Scottish Government considers that bus services could play a significant role in encouraging modal shift and reducing emissions and congestion. All Scottish local authorities will now be given powers to operate their own bus services while powers to create Bus Service Improvement Partnerships, where local transport authorities work with operators to improve bus services, will replace existing powers in relation to quality partnerships.
  • Smart Ticketing: there are provisions to enable the Scottish Ministers to introduce a national technical standard for smart ticketing, aimed at addressing the inconsistent approaches to smart ticketing to date. The Scottish Ministers will also be required to establish an advisory board to advise them on smart ticketing.
  • Pavement and Double Parking: following longstanding campaigns by various groups, parking on a pavement (i.e. a footpath or footway) will now be prohibited. Vehicles will be considered to be parked on a pavement if the vehicle is stationary and any part of one or more of its wheels is on any part of the pavement. Local authorities will have powers to make exemption orders, specifying certain footways to which the pavement parking prohibition does not apply. There will also be a prohibition on parking vehicles in such a way that no part of the vehicle is within 50cm of the edge of the carriageway. There are various exceptions to both prohibitions, including for vehicles delivering goods to, or collecting goods from, premises.
  • Road Works: there are various changes to the provisions on road works in the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. For example, parties executing road works will need to enter a reinstatement quality plan in the Scottish Road Works Register before commencing works, and that can only be done once the plan is approved by the SRWC.
  • Regional Transport Partnerships: there have been differing legal views on whether RTPs can hold financial reserves and carry them forward from one financial year to the next. It will now be clarified that RTPs are entitled hold financial reserves and carry them forward. The Scottish Ministers will also be able to make regulations to give all RTPs the powers to borrow and lend money, and establish and operate loans funds.
  • Redetermination Orders: there are provisions to enable the Scottish Ministers to make regulations to prescribe the procedure to be followed when making orders to redetermine the means of exercising the public right of passage over a road (e.g. changing part of a carriageway to footway or cycleway) under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.

Workplace Parking

The headline grabbing aspect of the Bill has been the ‘workplace parking levy’. Local authorities will be given powers to make a workplace parking licensing scheme for all or part of their area, either alone or jointly with one or more other local authorities. Such a scheme can require people to obtain, for a charge, a licence to provide workplace parking places at premises in the area to which the scheme applies.

Employers, and owners/operators of car parks who lease or otherwise provide parking spaces to businesses, could be in a position where they need to obtain, and pay for, a licence to provide parking spaces to a wide range of people including workers, suppliers, customers and people attending education or training courses.

Parking places at many NHS premises are exempt from any charges under a scheme but the scheme itself can also make provision for other specified persons, premises or motor vehicles to be exempt from the scheme or from paying charges under the scheme.

A statutory process will need to be followed to put a scheme in place, with the detail likely to be set out in regulations from the Scottish Ministers. However, the process will include consultation and potentially examination at a hearing or inquiry before an appointed Reporter.

Glasgow City Council and the City of Edinburgh Council have both expressed an interest in exploring the potential for a workplace parking licensing scheme, and other local authorities are also likely to be considering the new powers. Any net proceeds raised from the scheme must be applied towards achieving policies in local transport strategies.

Many of the Bill’s provisions are aimed at, among other things, reducing emissions and helping to tackle climate change. Climate change is a prominent issue at the present time and the Scottish Government sees Scotland as leading the way in addressing the issue, with the recently passed Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. Glasgow will also be at the heart of the issue when it hosts the UN’s COP26 in 2020.

The Bill covers a wide range of topics but much of the detail will be contained in secondary legislation, or any LEZ schemes or workplace parking licensing schemes brought forward by local authorities. Despite the detail still to emerge, many people are already preparing for the changes. Businesses are investing in their fleets to ensure they can meet future emissions standards and, as noted above, some local authorities are already exploring the potential for introducing a workplace parking licensing scheme.