Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 1 March 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-15759, in the name of Sandra White, on the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

It is a great pleasure for me and many others to bring the bill before Parliament. As some members will know, the bill started out as a proposal by former MSP Ross Finnie, back in 2010. At that time, the consultation received 120 responses, of which 83 per cent supported the proposals. Unfortunately, the bill fell due to the parliamentary election in 2011. However, it was then taken up in 2012 by Joe FitzPatrick MSP. Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on one’s point of view—Joe FitzPatrick had to withdraw the proposal upon becoming a minister in the current Scottish Government. I see that he has just come into the chamber.

It is worth nothing that the second consultation received 414 responses, with 95 per cent in favour of the proposed bill. That highlights the fact that the bill is very important. That is one of the biggest responses to a member’s bill that we have had.

After the bill fell in 2012, I took up the baton—the race has been more a marathon than a sprint—and I am proud to have stuck with the proposal to take it forward to this point. I hope that the principles of the bill will be agreed to today.

I thank the many individuals and groups who took part in the consultations and who continue to take a keen interest in what is going on. I also thank the members of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee for their hard work, dedication and support in scrutinising the bill. The committee reached the following conclusion:

“We report to the Parliament that we are content with the general principles of the Bill and recommend the Bill be agreed to at stage 1.”

I must point out that Cameron Buchanan in particular did a sterling job when he appeared in the committee’s YouTube video, calling for people to make their voices heard. I understand that the video has become quite a hit on YouTube. People should look it up.

I also thank the members of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for their scrutiny of the bill and for their conclusion that that committee is content with the delegated powers provisions in the bill.

I would also like to pay particular thanks to Living Streets, Guide Dogs Scotland and the coalition of charities that supported the bill and dedicated a lot of time and resources to help in its drafting.

In essence, the bill seeks to restrict the obstruction of footways and dropped kerbs by parked vehicles, and the double parking of vehicles on carriageways and all public roads in built-up areas. A number of exceptions are set out in the bill and, in addition, local authorities would be able to exempt areas from the bill’s provisions. The bill also seeks to prohibit vehicles from waiting while obstructing a footway or dropped kerb or when double parked, except in a limited number of circumstances.

For many users of footways, obstructive parking is a very real issue that can have a hugely detrimental effect on their daily lives. An excerpt from the submission to the committee by Guide Dogs Scotland sums up the issue perfectly. It says:

“In a Guide Dogs ‘Streets Ahead Survey’ ... Pavement parking was the top obstacle cited by all respondents (81.7%) rising to 88% for blind and partially sighted people, who listed it as a problem which they regularly encountered.

Parking on pavements affects all people who use the streets. It is particularly problematic and dangerous not solely for sight impaired, also for older people, people with pushchairs and walking toddlers, wheelchair users, mobility scooters, and other people with mobility and cognitive impairments. Pavement parking forces all these people to walk into the road amongst moving traffic.”

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I apologise because I will have to leave for a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, but I want to congratulate Sandra White on her perseverance with the bill. From the many representations that I have received from constituents, I know that it is one of the most eagerly awaited members’ bills that I have ever come across.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I thank Malcolm Chisholm for his intervention. I was going to mention him later in my speech, because he and Mark Lazarowicz, both of whom are from Edinburgh, have been very supportive. I also thank him for signing the motion, as requested. As Malcolm Chisholm said, the bill was “eagerly awaited”, and everyone has constantly said that it is one of the best bills that we could possibly put through the Parliament.

Another issue that a lot of people do not seem to think about is that pavement parking costs local authorities lots of money in maintenance. The cost is not only for surfaces; when pavements are broken and hazardous people can trip over them, which can give rise to compensation claims. There is also the breakdown of underground pipes and cables. People do not tend to think about that, but it is a really important issue. The City of Edinburgh Council made those observations in its submission on the bill. It stated:

The Council supports the introduction of a blanket ban on both footway and double parking with the option to indicate where footway parking is permitted. This approach will help us build upon the successes of our current Active Travel Action Plan and allow our draft Parking Action Plan to address these issues effectively.”

I thank the City of Edinburgh Council and other councils for their contributions.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland believes that

“A more effective and enforceable legal framework for addressing obstructive and inconsiderate parking could assist local authorities and councils in meeting the requirements of the” public sector equality duty,

“particularly as the 2010 Act makes clear that due regard involves the need to ‘remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are connected to that characteristic’”.

In other words, we must put forward provisions for the Equality Act 2010.

The bill’s provisions could also help to give effect to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In particular, article 9, on accessibility, states:

“To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States ... shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment”.

The convention makes it clear that that measure should

“include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility”.

One aspect that has been open to interpretation is legislative competence and whether the Scottish Parliament has responsibility for legislating in this area. That led to lengthy discussions with the Scottish Parliament’s non-Government bills unit, which took the view that the Scottish Parliament did not have competence, so the NGBU would not, as a result, provide support in drafting the bill. However, there was continued dialogue and work between the Scottish Government and its officers and Westminster.

I also have to mention Mr Chisholm and Mark Lazarowicz, who is a former Edinburgh MP. They worked with me and others to attempt to resolve that impasse. The Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay, and his officials got the amendments to the Scotland Bill through in order to remove any doubts about competence. Those amendments were brought to the House of Lords at its latest reading of the Scotland Bill and agreed on. We should all be thankful for and proud of that. Once again, I thank the Scottish Government—in particular, the minister—for support in moving the bill forward and, of course, I thank the minister’s officials for all the work that they have carried out. The officials in particular never seem to get the credit for that, so I thank them very much for it.

With the support that I have outlined, any perceived obstacles to implementation of the bill now seem to be resolved. That is what this Parliament is all about; it is a Parliament that serves the people and it is a Parliament for the people. What better way is there to serve the people than to remove obstacles that prevent people from going out their door and on to the pavement, whether they have a pushchair, or they are blind or have another disability? People should have the freedom of movement that members in the chamber and people outwith it take for granted, even if it is just to go to the shops or the park, or to take their kid out in a pushchair. It will be a great moment for the Parliament if it decides to support the general principles of the bill. I thank members and look forward to hearing their speeches.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I call Kevin Stewart to speak on behalf of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. You have up to seven minutes.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

As Sandra White outlined, many members have tried to introduce a bill such as the one that we are debating. I congratulate her on her tenacity.

The Local Government and Regeneration Committee welcomed the opportunity to consider the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. Members of Parliament, especially those of us who represent urban areas, are all too aware of the problems that are caused by irresponsible parking—double parking, parking across dropped-kerb crossing points and pavement parking. Those issues are raised with us far too regularly. As a constituency member, I have received various complaints about them over the years.

If our inboxes and mailbags were not enough to convince us that the issue is of real concern to a great many people, the response to our call for evidence most certainly was. We received 63 written submissions, about half of which were from members of the public, and nearly 4,000 people completed our online questionnaire. We also received nearly 500 comments on Facebook. The fact that many of the responses were not from people with disabilities shows that the issue is of significant concern at street level in many communities.

I also thank organisations such as Guide Dogs Scotland and Living Streets Scotland for their contributions, which were helpful during our consideration of the bill.

In our consideration, we heard from a lot of folk, as I said, including Police Scotland and some local authorities, which are responsible for enforcing parking restrictions. They said that existing legislative provision in the area is complex and confusing, and that the bill addresses the absence of clear rules. Based on the evidence that we took, we agreed that the bill seems to be a sound basis for strengthening the law in the area. We felt that the fact that irresponsible parking is such a problem in some communities demonstrates that the existing legislative provision is not working.

On the detail of the bill, we highlighted a few concerns that were raised with us. First, the scope of the definition of

“public roads in built-up areas in Scotland” seems to exclude A and B roads. We felt that irresponsible parking is also a problem on some A and B roads and we recommend that the bill apply to them, as well.

Secondly, we were confused by the exception that would allow parking next to a dropped kerb outside residential premises with the occupier’s permission. We felt that the bill needs to be clearer about whether that relates to a dropped kerb at the end of a private driveway. If it permits parking over a dropped kerb at a road crossing, that seems to be against the principle of the bill. We also considered that it would be impossible to enforce.

Thirdly, the Road Haulage Association raised concerns about the 20-minute window to allow parking next to a dropped kerb or double parking to make a delivery. However, we felt that 20 minutes would be sufficient for most deliveries and that deliveries that would take longer could be anticipated and more time scheduled to allow the driver to find an alternative more appropriate parking space.

Particular concerns were raised about implementation of the bill—especially about the power for local authorities to establish exempt areas, and enforcement by Police Scotland or local authorities. Local authorities felt that the process of establishing exempt areas and the legal requirements to signpost them effectively would cost much more than Sandra White suggests. There were also concerns that the bill could not be enforced effectively within existing resources.

We sought particular assurances that the bill would address the lack of consistency in how parking issues are dealt with across Scotland. We were, therefore, disappointed that Police Scotland and local authorities felt that the bill would do little to create a consistent approach across the country, and we noted the minister’s comment that further work would be required to address the issue. In highlighting those points, however, we note the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting a similar bill in the next parliamentary session, and the minister’s assurances that some aspects of the policy will be given further consideration.

We hope that local authorities will strike the right balance between keeping footways accessible and ensuring that there are sufficient parking opportunities in built-up areas. The bill should not just displace the problem from one urban area to another.

The committee is pleased to have played a part in highlighting the bill’s aims and, perhaps, in encouraging the Scottish and UK Governments to resolve the issue of legislative competence, so I welcome the inclusion of the relevant powers in the Scotland Bill.

I will finish by congratulating the member in charge on her tenacity and indomitable pursuance of the issue, and by welcoming the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting a bill in the next parliamentary session, when the relevant powers have been devolved.

The Local Government and Regeneration Committee supports the general principles of the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Before I give my opening speech to Parliament, I thank Sandra White for her opening speech and the commendable work that she has put into developing the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill in a complex subject area that we all acknowledge is challenging.

Kevin Stewart is right to say that it was Sandra White’s tenacious approach that has led to the bill coming this far and to a Government commitment to continue it into the next parliamentary session. Indeed, any incoming Government will now recognise that there is a great deal of consensus in Parliament on the issue and will want to take it forward.

Parking is an important issue for many people and is subject to a variety of acts and regulations. The bill aims to introduce clear prohibitions, while allowing for various qualifications and exceptions. Those aims align with our key strategic transport policy of improving the quality, accessibility and affordability of transport. The Government is committed to promoting, supporting and advancing the rights of non-motorised users to ensure that our roads and footpaths are accessible for all.

As part of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee’s stage 1 inquiry, it received almost 4,000 responses to an online questionnaire and 63 submissions to its written evidence stage, all of which highlights just how much people are concerned about obstructive and irresponsible parking. Enter Cameron Buchanan, YouTube star—who knew?

The committee concluded in its stage 1 report that it is content with the general principles of the member’s bill, and I share that view. Having said that, I acknowledge that a number of issues still require to be worked through, particularly the issue of this Parliament’s powers to legislate on the matter.

After the bill’s introduction, the Presiding Officer issued a statement stating that, in her view, the bill is outwith the current legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. That statement has raised doubt about whether any act that flows from the bill will be fully within the legislative competence of the Parliament.

While there may be differing legal views on whether Parliament could legislate competently in this area, as the legislation may give rise to financial penalties and potential criminality it is absolutely essential that all doubt is removed. That is why the Scottish and UK Governments have agreed the general approach to the amendment of the Scotland Bill that seeks to address the legislative competence issues raised by the Presiding Officer.

The principal amendment was laid on 24 February and we are working with the UK Government on further minor and technical amendments to deliver the appropriate competence to the Scottish Parliament. As has been said before, it is not our preference to have legislation made in the House of Lords in relation to Scotland, but it is welcome that we have made this progress. However, any agreed amendments will not be in force before this Parliament is dissolved.

In addition to the legislative competence issues, the committee heard evidence from local authorities, Police Scotland and businesses, which have stressed the need for more detailed consideration on the implementation and enforcement of the bill’s provisions. I also acknowledge the committee’s concerns about the challenges facing many local authorities in managing Scotland’s roads to ensure that they work effectively for pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists and businesses.

Sandra White acknowledged those concerns and the fact that the bill as drafted does not cover all roads in Scotland. We have to look at the challenging priorities in relation to the residential nature of many of our streets around town centres and not shunt the problem to another area, as has been described. That is why a careful consultation and fuller consideration will be required on some of the traffic management and planning issues.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I speak now as a constituency MSP rather than as the convener of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. Can the minister give us an assurance that, when future legislation is formulated, A and B roads will be looked at? I know that there are not many trunk roads where parking is allowed, but there certainly are in Aberdeen and there are many problems in my own constituency and in that of Mark McDonald.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

That is a fair point, and in taking forward the legislation the Government will have to consider all the issues around enforceability, decriminalised parking, where local authorities are at on the issue and the workability of it all.

We need to resolve the issues that were raised during and indeed after the committee’s consideration of the bill, including getting the right balance between residential need and accessibility, town centre planning principles around regeneration, economic opportunity and so on. However, we need to do that keeping in mind the key principle of tackling irresponsible and inconsiderate parking, which is—pardon the pun—the driving force behind the bill.

It is for that reason that I can make a commitment that this Government, if re-elected, intends to introduce suitable legislation in the next parliamentary session. We would begin with further consultation on all those matters to ensure that we get it right and to ensure fairness in our active travel priorities and accessibility agenda.

We must ensure that any new legislation strikes the right balance and is fully workable so that it can deliver on the principles and the key objectives that successive Parliaments have now tried to deliver.

Although it may not be possible, for the reasons given, to legislate before this parliamentary session concludes, the fact that there seems to be so much consensus shows that we should take the issue forward. That is why this Government is committed to introducing legislation to address the issues that have been raised by so many constituents and by members from across the political spectrum, not least by Sandra White, who got the bill this far, leading to a Government commitment.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

I, too, thank Sandra White for introducing her Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill and for her work on highlighting the problem of inconsiderate parking. It is an issue that the Parliament has been debating for some time now, and I am pleased that Sandra White has been able to pick up on the work of her predecessors—our former parliamentary colleague Ross Finnie MSP and her ministerial colleague, Joe FitzPatrick.

It is quite clear that parking on the pavement and across dropped kerbs is irksome and inconvenient to many pedestrians but it is potentially dangerous to others, including cyclists, blind or partially sighted people, children in prams and anyone using a wheelchair. Even for the nimble footed and traffic aware, being forced off the pavement on to the road increases the risk of being hit by a car or lorry but, for many more people, the kerb itself is a barrier. Badly parked cars can turn a simple journey into an obstacle course.

To my mind, the bill is about trying to change behaviour. It is about encouraging us all to be a little less selfish and a little more thoughtful when behind the wheel of a car, but it is also about rebalancing our relationship as a society with cars generally. Motor transport is vital to us economically, but we should recognise that it is also often simply about our personal convenience and that that needs to be weighed against safety, our environment and quality of life.

In recent years, we have seen a move to lower speed limits in built-up areas, the introduction of car-free home zones and an attempt to make cars more pedestrian friendly, if I can use that term to describe the removal of sharp edges and prominent insignia from the front bonnet. The safe routes to school initiative from the early years of the Parliament was another helpful move in the right direction, but for those of us who often do the school run, although things might have improved, it is unfortunately still not unusual to see double parking and pavement parking on the very pavements that prams and young kids are trying to negotiate on their way to school.

Before we all get too self-righteous or sanctimonious, I would ask how many drivers here have not at one stage or another parked on a pavement. I am sure that we all justified it at the time, because it was what everyone else in a narrow street was doing or it was only for a minute or two. My point is that we all have the potential to behave one way as a pedestrian and another as a driver and there is a spectrum of selfishness or inconsiderate behaviour that we are all on and which we all need to address. I believe that the bill is not about punishing drivers; it is about addressing and changing that behaviour.

I turn to the proposed legislation. Although there is broad agreement about the general approach in the bill, there are also a number of concerns. I thank the Local Government and Regeneration Committee for flagging them up in its helpful consideration at stage 1. For example, it appears that, although the police and local authorities already have powers to tackle the problem of nuisance parking, several different laws can apply, depending on the circumstances. Furthermore, enforcement of those laws varies widely across the country. In many council areas, including my authority of East Renfrewshire, parking enforcement has been decriminalised, so parking regulations are now the responsibility of local parking attendants rather than the police. I share the committee’s view that it might be helpful to take a more consistent approach and that a bill to clarify and consolidate the legislation would help to make it clearer to drivers exactly what is and is not acceptable in the way of parking.

Sticking with my local authority for a moment, the recent decriminalisation of parking has not been without its problems. Residents and shopkeepers have been up in arms about overvigorous ticketing, particularly outside local shops. Parking restrictions that had not been enforced for decades were suddenly zealously implemented, provoking a pretty strong reaction from those on the receiving end.

Local people have now been consulted on what parking restrictions would be appropriate. I will not pretend that every concern has been addressed, but the approach has at least begun to reflect parking need and local usage. My point is that, in introducing any new measures or powers over parking, it is better to take people with us. That emerged strongly from the evidence on the bill. I thoroughly endorse the committee’s recommendation that any enforcement is

“accompanied by consultation and dialogue with local communities”.

The Presiding Officer has made it clear that she does not believe that the proposed legislation is within the competence of the Parliament. That is not an insurmountable problem. My former Westminster colleague Mark Lazarowicz introduced the Responsible Parking (Scotland) Bill with exactly the aim of devolving the powers in mind. Unfortunately, like the previous members’ bills on the issue, that proposal fell on dissolution. However, it is my understanding, which has been confirmed by the minister and Sandra White, that Scottish ministers and the UK Government are working together to devolve the necessary powers. That might not happen before the end of this session of the Parliament in three weeks but, by agreeing to the general principles of the bill today, we will clear the way for the introduction of a Government bill in the immediate future.

I hope that Sandra White and supporters of the bill take consolation from the fact that, by simply taking the bill to stage 1, they have helped to raise awareness of the problem of inconsiderate parking. Just by debating the issue, they have already tried to change the problem. I am happy to show Labour’s support for the general principles of the bill.

Photo of Cameron Buchanan Cameron Buchanan Conservative

I thank Sandra White for her flattering remarks. The saying, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” comes to mind—maybe we should beware of Sandra White.

The Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill seeks to address a problem that we would all like to be resolved. As members have mentioned, inconsiderate parking can be not only a nuisance but a serious impediment to pedestrians, who may have difficulties dealing with unexpected obstacles. I am glad that we can all agree on the need to tackle that behaviour, but we must find a solution that is proportionate as well as effective.

I will be pleased if the issue is settled in the next session of Parliament, as that will allow the time to scrutinise the proposals in detail and ensure that the public are protected from unintended consequences. The key is to protect vulnerable pedestrians without imposing undue burdens on law enforcement or getting in the way of perfectly reasonable or, indeed, necessary parking.

As someone with mobility difficulties, I speak from personal experience about how difficult it is when a pavement or dropped kerb is blocked and I find myself left with little option but to take a longer route and move around on to the road. To call that an inconvenience is an understatement. For people like me, such a situation can be distressing and even dangerous as they try to negotiate between cars. In addition, parents with pushchairs will, understandably, not want to be forced to go around parked cars and on to dangerous roads between other parked vehicles. That is also a key point.

Furthermore, frequent parking on footways can cause wear and tear that eventually manifests as uneven pavements. Such damage can represent a real danger to pedestrians, especially vulnerable ones, and is the last thing that local authorities need.

We can all agree that such inconsiderate parking must be tackled, and I am glad that we have this chance to discuss our approach at length. The question that remains is how best to go about it. I have always maintained the position that legislation must be targeted and proportionate if it is to be effective and worth while. That must be applied to the bill. Sadly, the blanket ban that it proposes would fail the test of proportionality. Of course I agree that such inconsiderate parking should not be tolerated, but there are many instances when parking partly on a pavement is the only available option and can be done without obstructing pedestrians’ access. Therefore, it would not be sensible to use a blanket measure.

I am sure that members are aware of instances in which parking with two wheels on a pavement has left sufficient room for pedestrians to pass while allowing traffic to flow freely on the road. That is a key point because it would obviously be counterproductive to impose a ban only for it to result in constant road blockages. As long as such parking can be done in a way that allows more than enough room for all pedestrians to pass freely, I do not see the problem with it and certainly do not see the benefit of banning it.

The compromise that I would like to emerge would find a balance between protecting vulnerable pedestrians and allowing harmless pavement parking to continue. For that reason, I am glad we have the chance to return to the issue in the next session of the Parliament should we wish. That would give us the opportunity to advocate a fresh approach that upholds the principle of protecting vulnerable pedestrians while avoiding the unintended consequences of which I spoke.

I can understand the temptation to push through a blanket ban because it is right to say that we should not tolerate forcing vulnerable pedestrians to move around parked cars on pavements or dropped footways. However, we would not be serving the public if we simply imposed a blanket ban and left motorists, as well as law enforcement officers, to clear up the mess. I will pick up on that last point later.

I look forward to listening to the debate.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I, too, welcome the bill and congratulate Sandra White on introducing it. I do not thank her so much for telling me how much of an internet sensation Cameron Buchanan has become since his YouTube appearances.

This debate is personal to me because, as most members know, my wife, Stacey, has multiple sclerosis and mobility issues. Unless, like Cameron Buchanan or Stacey, people live with mobility issues, they do not understand the frustration. It was quite funny listening to Mr Buchanan talk about his frustration if there is an obstacle in his way and how polite he is in getting around it. My wife may be many things, but I assure members that, in such situations, polite would not be one of them.

The debate is about people having the decency to allow others to go about their business and get from one end of the town other. I am often reminded of the time when, as a member of Renfrewshire Council, I became the Renfrewshire access panel member for the council—ironically, Derek Mackay appointed me. At the access panel, I heard at first hand the difficulties that people had. They were not just the problems that I knew of; let us not kid ourselves: although they are part of my life, it is Stacey who deals with them daily, not me.

There are 47 access panels throughout Scotland and they know what is best for the people in their areas. They know about mobility difficulties and the problems that people with such difficulties encounter. I would encourage more local authorities and others to work with them to find solutions to those problems. The volunteers involved will be willing to work with them to make a difference.

The umbrella organisation for access panels is the Scottish Disability Equality Forum. The people who are involved in that body have wonderful taste, because they made me its national patron. The forum has mentioned something that Ken Macintosh touched on, which is that the issue is not so much to do with hitting someone with a big stick as it is to do with education. The forum believes that it could educate drivers and help them to understand that the lack of thought that they have for, say, 10 minutes might be what causes someone to miss a doctor’s appointment or a hospital appointment or to be unable to do something connected to their business or their work.

I can understand why people get frustrated when faced with such situations. A number of years ago, I attended Renfrewshire access panel’s open day, at which people had the opportunity to find out what it is like to be a disabled person, which I, obviously, knew about from Stacey’s experience. The then provost, Celia Lawson, accessed the council headquarters, Renfrewshire house, in a wheelchair, to see what it was like, and I used a pair of spectacles that made me visually impaired. The funny thing was that, when I got into Renfrewshire house, I nearly battered my head off one of the television screens because Renfrewshire Council had not thought that someone with a visual impairment would be 6ft 3in.

The Scottish Disability Equality Forum should be a statutory body in the planning process. We must work with the people who are involved in the forum, because they know the individuals who are involved, they know their areas and they know what they want to do.

We need to encourage the bill and put forward the policy. Doing so would send a message to people in Scotland that we are trying to help them. That is not about having a blunt instrument; it is about ensuring that we can educate drivers and that everybody—because this is a debate about equality—is able exercise their right to get from one end of our communities and towns to the other. That is why I back Sandra White in the debate and wish her all the best. I can see the difference that the policy would make to people’s lives.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

I, too, congratulate Sandra White on her tenacity in bringing the issue forward, despite all the obstacles that were put in her way, including the issue of legal competence. I am glad that she decided to persevere with her bill.

I am a member of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, which considered the bill and gathered evidence on it. Some of that evidence was extremely enlightening with regard to the measures that have been put in place by some local authorities to try to address the issue. In particular, South Lanarkshire Council has come up with an innovative plan to tackle on-street parking.

However, as others have said today, on-street parking is a blight—

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

One moment, Mr Wilson. Minister, if you could turn to face the front of the chamber and not turn your back on the chair, that would be extremely courteous.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Independent

On-street parking is a blight on many communities throughout Scotland. The issue for those communities is how to deal with people who park on and obstruct pavements. Some of the evidence that we heard from Police Scotland was interesting, as we were told that the police would not take action if a car was parked on a pavement, because they would have to determine who was driving the vehicle at the time that the car was parked. There is an issue about how the legislation that is currently in place is used. If the issue is taken forward in the next session of Parliament, I hope that the process can be used to clean up the legislative landscape, so that we can get something that is clear and definitive and will enable people to ask for the legislation to be applied.

Although Police Scotland welcomed the bill, it stated in its submission that the enforcement of parking offences would be a low priority that would be conducted either alongside daily business or during bespoke operations to address significant problems. During oral evidence to the committee, the Police Scotland witness stated that it did not anticipate police officers issuing a large number of parking tickets as a result of the bill; instead, it anticipated the power being used to address specific community concerns and during campaigns. That concerns me because we need to be clear about how any legislation that we introduce will be applied. That issue came up during discussions and is contained in the committee’s report. The legislation must be seen to be evenly applied where there are issues throughout Scotland.

As we have heard, organisations that gave evidence, such as Guide Dogs Scotland and Living Streets Scotland, identified the problems that many people have. We discussed dropped kerbs. Some local authorities, when they are streetscaping town centres, introduced dropped kerbs for wheelchair users and those who have mobility issues. We need clarity in future legislation about dropped kerbs and whether the enforcement of the dropped kerb provisions is more of a concern where streetscaping has taken place to allow accessibility and free movement through town centres and other areas.

The work that Sandra White and others have done to introduce the bill and get it to this stage shows that there is concern out there that we need to address. I look forward to the next Scottish Government introducing appropriate legislation that we can all get behind on behalf of the Scottish people and those most in need of support. We must ensure that double parking is dealt with and that offenders who continually park on pavements are dealt with appropriately.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

I call Cameron Buchanan to wind up. You have four minutes, Mr Buchanan.

Photo of Cameron Buchanan Cameron Buchanan Conservative

So soon, Presiding Officer, so soon.

It has been useful to hear colleagues’ views on this important issue as we decide how to take it forward. I think that we can all agree on the need to tackle such inconsiderate behaviour. It is only right that we protect vulnerable pedestrians and ensure that access to public footpaths is not impeded in any way. However, it would be useful to bear in mind the fact that helping pedestrians does not have to involve impeding motorists. After all, it is likely that the majority of drivers are considerate in their parking and share the views expressed today about footway and double parking. With this likely to remain an issue in the next session of Parliament, we should use the chance to redefine our approach so that it becomes one that is proportionate and which is, crucially, targeted only at genuinely inconsiderate and unnecessary parking.

I have touched on situations in which footway parking can be both necessary to allow traffic flow and harmless to pedestrians, as long as—crucially—sufficient room is left to pass. Obviously, it is preferable to avoid such parking where possible, but we must recognise the reality that drivers are frequently left with no other option.

Photo of Dennis Robertson Dennis Robertson Scottish National Party

Today, I was walking along and found a car impeding the whole pavement. I had no option but to go on to the road. There was no space against the wall—the car took up the whole pavement and I had to walk into on-coming traffic. It took me 10 minutes because I had to wait for assistance—the guide dog refused to go into on-coming traffic.

Photo of Cameron Buchanan Cameron Buchanan Conservative

I thank the member for that pertinent intervention. I, too, have had similar problems, although perhaps not where a car has taken up the whole pavement. I find it very difficult and, as the member can imagine, I get very nervous when I have to go on to the road to avoid parked cars.

However, we must recognise the unintended consequences of a blanket ban. We would do well to consider the demands that a blanket ban would place on traffic wardens and law enforcement officers. I think that we would agree that traffic wardens and the police have enough on their hands already, and neither they nor the public would welcome a massive increase in their duties. Issuing penalties to motorists who are not impeding pedestrians but still fall foul of a blanket ban would detract from officers’ priorities, as well as simply being unfair. Ken Macintosh speculated on that. I emphasise that the potential to extract extra revenue from the public through parking fines is a negative, not a positive, when applied to drivers who have had no choice and do not even impede pedestrians.

The point is that we should use any chance to reform the approach set out by the bill so that we are careful not to impose counterproductive or unfair burdens as a side effect. Of course we need to tackle the scourge of grossly inconsiderate parking, but let us ensure that we do not create new problems in its place.

Accordingly, I reiterate the Conservatives’ support for the principle that vulnerable pedestrians and their use of pavements should not be blocked in any way by inconsiderate parking. It is only right that we ensure fair access to footways and do not tolerate the denial of free access by a careless minority. However, we have a responsibility to ensure that any legislation passed by this Parliament is proportionate, in that it accurately targets the source of the issue. Should we have a chance to look at this issue again, I hope that we use it carefully to craft a solution that protects both vulnerable pedestrians and the majority of motorists, who are considerate parkers.

Photo of Lesley Brennan Lesley Brennan Labour

I too congratulate Sandra White on persevering with the important issue of protecting vulnerable pedestrians. The Labour group supports the general principles of the bill.

When members speak to anyone who lives in a built-up area about motor vehicles parking on pavements, they will find that most folk have an opinion or an experience. I remember that, when my boys were small—I had twins when my eldest was two and a half—I often had to navigate cars that were parked half on the pavement and half on the road with a double buggy and a toddler standing on the buggy board.

There were times when I had to bump off the pavement on to the road with a toddler hanging on and then bump back up again. Going on to the road is obviously quite dangerous. I found it difficult—and that was 16 years ago when I was fitter and had much better vision. I therefore empathise with people who have a visual impairment or a physical disability, with older people and with children, who sometimes cannot see as their line of sight is blocked by vehicles parking on the pavement or double parking.

Pavement parking causes an obstruction for pedestrians and in particular for children; for people who are blind or partially sighted; for wheelchair and mobility scooter users; and for those with pushchairs or prams. As has been said, it is an offence to drive on to the pavement with or without the intention to park, but there have long been concerns about the extent to which the law is enforced in that respect.

Constituents have raised with me concerns about Police Scotland not attending incidents of pavement parking that pedestrians have deemed to be dangerous. As we have heard, Police Scotland does not seem to make such incidents a priority, even if a vehicle is causing a significant obstruction.

Police Scotland stated in a consultation document in October 2013 that, given the financial savings that it required to make, parking enforcement was not a priority area. That resulted in the local paper The Courier publishing the headline:

“Councils fear ‘driver anarchy’ as Police Scotland withdraws from parking enforcement”.

Laws are only as good as their enforcement. The bill’s provisions would be enforced by Police Scotland where parking is criminalised and by traffic wardens in areas with decriminalised parking enforcement such as Dundee, Aberdeen, Fife and Edinburgh.

Fife Council noted concerns—which are shared by many authorities—that the bill would raise expectations; that traffic wardens would have to widen their beats to cover more areas; and that, without additional resources, local authorities would be unable to enforce the provisions, especially given the Scottish Government’s unprecedented cuts to local government.

I suppose that it is important to ask why drivers park in this way. For a few, it is due to thoughtlessness, but for many it is due to the physical constraints of the built environment. When many of our housing schemes and towns were planned for and built, the current level of car ownership and use was never expected. In addition to supporting and progressing the bill, we ought to acknowledge the constraints, look for innovative ideas on how to resolve the matter and talk further with town planners and transport planners.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

I call the Minister for Transport and Islands. If you could go to 5.52pm, minister, I would appreciate that greatly.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

We have had a number of useful briefings for this afternoon’s debate on the proposals in the bill. I urge Cameron Buchanan, who seems to be the only voice departing from the consensus, to think again, given his wide experience of the issue and his understanding following the committee’s investigation.

It is important that we support the bill at stage 1, because we would be agreeing to the principles of the bill. If there is time to consider the bill at stages 2 and 3, that would of course offer an opportunity to change the bill as Cameron Buchanan has requested and to refine it to his satisfaction.

It would be important if the whole Parliament were to agree at stage 1 to the principles of taking forward action on responsible parking. As all members have hinted, the legislation can largely be about common sense and about thinking about the needs of everyone. Sandra White has made that point repeatedly in discussing the need for the bill.

Even when there was doubt about legislative competence, Sandra White encouraged the UK Government and the Scottish Government to work together. Now that we have consensus, it is unfortunate that the necessary legislative change to remove all doubt will not happen in time to legislate during this session of the Scottish Parliament. I suppose that that gives us the time to refine the proposed legislation to everyone’s satisfaction. Maybe then even the Conservatives will be able to come on board with it.

Cameron Buchanan rose—

I am glad that that invited an intervention.

Photo of Cameron Buchanan Cameron Buchanan Conservative

After that vicious personal attack, what can I say?

We support the bill. I am against the blanket part of it and it needs a bit of tinkering and change, but we support it.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

Minister, I can return the time for you.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I am delighted to hear that from Cameron Buchanan. I was given the impression that the Conservatives would not support the bill. I come from Renfrewshire, and if the member thought that that was a vicious personal attack, I would have to say that the politics in Renfrewshire are a wee bit rougher than that. I mean that in all positivity.

Kevin Stewart covered issues of definition, as I would expect from the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. George Adam covered the personal experience of supporting his wife in her wheelchair, and the frustration of other people who assume that they have right of way.

John Wilson was right on the purpose of clarity and definition. We must get the legislation right so that what is enforceable is easily understood and so that the public know where they can and cannot, or should and should not, park. There is an issue about consistency, definition and clarity. Ken Macintosh was right about local opinion, consultation and taking people with us on what works at the most local level. Any legislation will be about localism, and it must provide the required clarity.

Lesley Brennan very helpfully pointed out one anomaly, of which there are many, in the complex legislation—it is illegal to drive on the footway, but some would say that it is okay and competent to park on it. How would one get there to park if not by driving on the footway? Tightening up and refining the legislation will make the difference, which is why the Government has committed to embark on a consultation, which will ensure that we can cover as many as possible of the issues that have been raised.

Ken Macintosh also touched on planning and policy and, indeed, on cultural aspects of the policy. He was absolutely right to do that. As we look at the complete issue, we see that there is a balancing act between accessibility and the local need for parking provision. As transport minister, with a clear focus on roads and safety, I should say that I am concerned about the statistics on more vulnerable road users. Accessibility and safety must be paramount among the competing priorities in the balancing act.

We need a mixture of common sense and enforceability. The evidence is that parking legislation is more effective where there is decriminalised parking enforcement. Decriminalised parking has been introduced in a number of local authorities, including Aberdeen, Argyll and Bute, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. A number of other councils are going through the necessary legislation to decriminalise parking enforcement. That leaves a number that will have to move towards that, to reach the consistency that many members talked about.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

In his speechifying, Cameron Buchanan talked about an added burden for wardens and the police. However, in Aberdeen, where parking enforcement is decriminalised, it is extremely frustrating for the citizen wardens who work in neighbourhoods where double parking and footway parking take place that they can do nothing about it. Can we get those folk the powers sooner rather than later so that they can help the neighbourhoods where they work?

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

The powers will give those officers a sense of empowerment and further clarity on what is enforceable, as well as assisting in the cultural understanding. Improvement in behaviour—if we get it right on education and awareness—could lead to less enforcement as people understand what is and is not acceptable.

There are issues around signage and the understanding of which streets could be affected, so it is important to get the legislation right. The right implementation will help with the workability and practicality of how the measures would be enforced.

If there is one issue that has been on-going since this Parliament’s creation on which the inability to legislative has frustrated people, there is no doubt that it must be this one. The issue seems so simple. The legislation is complex, but the objective of ensuring more responsible parking and tackling irresponsible parking is simple.

As transport minister, I have launched a number of initiatives to improve road safety. Because of the impact of traffic speed in built-up areas, I will imminently launch the in town, slow down initiative.

In reviewing the road safety framework, I want to see more careful driving and a more considered approach from drivers, which will make a difference to road safety. The rolling out of 20mph zones is to be encouraged, as well as other road safety campaigns. I have no doubt that, if we show that more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, have a sense of priority and accessibility, that will make a difference for their safety and just for a general, better commonsense approach in local neighbourhoods.

For all those reasons, the Government supports Sandra White’s bill at stage 1. In the event that the bill cannot progress because of timing, and having resolved the necessary legislative issues, the Government has committed to legislate on the topic in the next session.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

This is an important debate. It has been excellent, measured and thoughtful. All areas have been touched on. Members’ experiences of the issues, including the first-hand experiences of Dennis Robertson and Cameron Buchanan, came to the fore in their speeches. I thank all MSPs from all parties for their speeches. I sincerely thank the minister for his pledge that the next Scottish Government, if he happens to be in it—I know that he will be, although perhaps not as transport minister—will take on board my bill. It is fantastic that the Government has said that—not just because of my work but, as I said, because of the work of Ross Finnie, Joe FitzPatrick and the many groups out there that have been pushing for this, too. I offer my heartfelt thanks to them for their work in helping me progress the bill.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I realise that a lot of effort was needed to get some of the power devolved to ensure that this Parliament will be able to legislate on the issue in the future. Will Sandra White continue to ensure that colleagues elsewhere make sure that the power is devolved so that we can deal with the matter as a Parliament once and for all?

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

That is an important issue. In my opening remarks, I said that people in other places, such as Westminster, the Scotland Office and Transport Scotland, as well as ministers and others, met and basically worked through the issues with me. I assure not only Kevin Stewart but the Parliament that if devolution of the powers slips one tiny bit, I will be on the phone or at people’s offices to ensure that the Parliament gets the powers.

I believed from the outset that this Parliament had competence in the area, as I said, but the advice from your good self, Presiding Officer, was that we did not, although we had lawyers who said that we did. That is in the past, and we are where we are.

I am grateful to the MSPs from all parties who will vote for the bill tonight, and I thank them for their speeches. I want to talk about the substantive points that have been raised. For example, members asked what we can do about enforcement. I acknowledge the issue and I acknowledge that the bill is complicated.

I welcome what Kevin Stewart and others said, for example about dropped kerbs. During evidence taking, we also talked about crossing points, which I think that John Wilson mentioned. As streets and cityscapes are planned, people are looking at putting in dropped crossing points, which are slightly different from dropped kerbs and enable someone who is disabled or in a wheelchair to cross the road—instead of trying to cross and finding that there is nowhere on the other side where they can get back on to the pavement. Crossing points are an important issue.

Members talked about loading and delivery. The statutory waiting time is 20 minutes, which some members and local authorities think is absolutely fine and others think is far too long. On Sunday I was near Glasgow Botanic Gardens, in my constituency, and I saw a van drive up and park on the pavement right outside a bus stop. It stayed there for about three hours. The driver was not delivering anything—I do not know what they were doing—and it would have been hard for a disabled person to get along the road or off the pavement. Dennis Robertson and Cameron Buchanan talked about that. Someone who happened to be using a stick, a wheelchair or whatever could have got off the bus and not been able to leave the bus stop. That is what I call an inconsiderate driver.

All those things have to be looked at. I welcome that—[Interruption.]

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick None

One moment, Ms White. I ask all members who are coming into the chamber not to bring their conversations into the chamber and to do Ms White the courtesy of listening to her.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer. That is the first time that people have been told to listen to me. I usually just shout at the door. I am sure that members will listen to me.

A number of other issues were raised in the debate. Ken Macintosh and other members talked about education. I have said from the beginning of the bill process that I want the bill to be educational, not punitive. We must educate people. I do not think that all drivers are bad drivers, but—as is the case with everything—some drivers need more education than others do. We should concentrate on that aspect of the bill.

George Adam talked about the Scottish Disability Equality Forum and access panels, which it will be important to involve. I said to the committee that access panels should be placed on a statutory footing. They have experience, they know what is happening, and they should give advice on a statutory basis. Local communities must also be consulted and involved, as happens in the context of restricted parking zones, because the legislation requires councils to consult communities. I imagine that a similar approach needs to be provided for in the bill.

We have talked about disabled people and people with young kids. Social isolation is also a huge issue, which this Parliament takes very seriously. I am a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee, which did an inquiry into the problem. The feedback that the committee got and the media coverage that our inquiry attracted demonstrated that people are suffering from social isolation. How much more isolating an experience can someone have than that of being unable to get out of their own front door because someone has parked on the pavement? As I said, a person might just want to go to the shops, but if they never know whether they will be able to get back into their house, that causes worry and might stop them going out, leading to social isolation.

I think that members have reached a consensus. I ask them to support the bill’s principles at stage 1, at decision time tonight.