PLANS to give Scottish councils the power to charge businesses for parking spaces have come under fire from retail industry stakeholders.
The proposed Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) could see retailers and wholesalers face additional council charges on top of existing business rates.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee on 29 May, Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, spoke out against the parking fee proposal.
“If this includes business customers, we’re talking about convenience stores throughout your communities: 4,972 convenience stores, your local café, pub, club, restaurant, anywhere you buy food and drink is probably serviced through one of our members.
“A lot of our members operate a cash and carry depot where convenience store operators will come and pick up their juice and crisps and such.
“By nature of the animal, they come in a van and are going out with trolley loads, not carrier bags. So if we’re suddenly being hit, the business customer is in effect being charged, or our members have to absorb it.”
Scottish Retail Consortium chief executive David Lonsdale raised concerns that the proposal could introduce further cost pressures during a difficult time for retail. Lonsdale described the cost hikes faced by retailers over the last few years, including rising business rates and auto-enrolment pensions – warning that retailers are feeling the pressure.
John Finnie, the Scottish Green Party MSP who put forward the amendment asked Lonsdale if this was simply the “latest whinge” from the sector.
Londsale responded that this was an “unfair characterisation” before going on to question the lack of an economic impact assessment on the proposals.
“I find it astonishing that we’re actually talking about this levy without any sense whatsoever as to what the impact would be on consumers, businesses, on local authorities, it’s quite startling that we’re doing policy making in this way in this day and age.
“We’re very supportive of evidence based policy making in the round, we work constructively with the Scottish Government and the UK Government on a whole host of issues but, as I say, I find it astonishing that there’s no impact assessment at all at this moment,” he said.
The WPL proposal was introduced as an amendment to the Scottish Government’s Transport Bill currently working its way through parliament. It was introduced as part of the SNP minority government’s budget deal with the Greens.