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Transport (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th October 2019.

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Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I have watched and worked on the Transport (Scotland) Bill from the moment it was introduced in Parliament. As a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, I worked to rectify its limitations with the rest of the committee. I thank all the members of that committee and the clerks for their diligence.

Many of the provisions regarding LEZs, bus franchising and pavement parking have been improved, so that they will work for Scotland and improve our streets, roads and environment. My Conservative colleagues and I support them.

There were high expectations for the bill. However, suddenly, at stage 2, came the Greens’ workplace parking levy—a proposal that was the result of backroom dealing with the Government. It was a deal that was done in order to get the Government’s budget through, at the expense of people who work to support their families and Scotland.

I live in a rural area; I know that transport is critical. People want properly maintained roads, more reliable buses, trains that run on time and do not skip their stations, new and reliable ferries that are built on time and on budget, and airports that do not close before the last flight has landed. This Government, which has been in power for 12 years, has not delivered those things. However, it has delivered a charge that, due to the lack of central Government funding, many councils will be forced to use.

The car parking tax is a tax on workers: it is a regressive tax that will hurt low-paid people. It will hit shift workers, the police, fire and rescue staff, charities, health and care workers, residential home workers and vets, to name but a few. It will not hit high-paid workers, but everyday normal Scots who go to work to support their families. The Government cannot hide behind the fact that whether to impose a levy is a decision for local authorities. If we do not fund authorities, they will have no option but to use it.

Many SNP members feel as uncomfortable about the tax as I do. Initially, they were prepared to speak out, but where are they now? They are invisible and are not on the side of the people who will face paying that tax.

The hypocrisy is that the tax is being sold as an environmental tax, when it is not. Will those who can afford to pay the tax and who ride around in company cars that are driven by others change their behaviour? I think not.

The people of Scotland wanted better roads and better transport networks, but the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which promised so much, instead punishes them with an unfair tax.

The Scottish Conservatives would have supported the bill. I wanted to support it, until it was hijacked by people who want to punish workers. The public transport system that those workers rely on is not working

We lodged amendments that would have reduced the harm that would be caused by the workplace parking levy, but the heartless Government voted against every one of them. The SNP Government is intent on introducing an unfair and regressive tax, and it does not care about the damage that it will do.

I will not support policies that penalise hard-working Scots. For that reason, sadly, I will be forced to vote against the Transport (Scotland) Bill.