MSPs urge crackdown on disabled parking abuse

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image captionLegislation on disable parking spaces came into force in 2009

The abuse of disabled persons' parking spaces is still having a huge impact on people's lives eight years after legislation designed at preventing such misuse was passed, according to MSPs.

Holyrood's local government and finance committee has been reviewing the Disabled Persons' Parking Places Act.

It has called on the Scottish government to devise a public awareness campaign highlighting the problem.

Transport Scotland said it welcomed the committee's report.

There are about one million disabled people in Scotland and many of them rely on having access to designated disabled persons' parking.

Legislation came into force in 2009 aimed at making such parking places legally enforceable, preventing the misuse by those not entitled to park there.

The committee heard evidence from witnesses - including disability charities, local authority representatives and private car park owners such as Tesco and NCP.

It found, overall, the legislation was "working well in practice".

However, those giving evidence unanimously agreed that the main factor underpinning the misuse of the parking spaces was a public lack of understanding about the effect on disabled people.

Disability charities also claimed the misuse would continue because of a "lack of enforcement".

'Nipping to shops'

The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland said there was a "postcode lottery" on enforcement due to removal of traffic wardens in some areas and some local authorities having decriminalised parking while elsewhere it is dealt with by police.

Committee convener, Bob Doris, said: "Our committee was pleased to see that local authorities and some private car parks had cracked down on the misuse of disabled parking places since the act was introduced in 2009.

"However, during our evidence sessions, we heard from disability groups and many said there is still a perception that it is acceptable to use a disabled parking place even if it's just to 'nip to the shops'.

"We believe this is entirely unacceptable and people must understand that depriving someone of a disabled space could mean they are preventing that person from getting to their homes, jobs and to vital services.

"That's why we've strongly urged the Scottish government to devise a national awareness campaign in order to avoid the misuse and abuse of disabled parking in the future."

Enforcement powers

The committee's report also said more needed be done to reinforce the responsibilities of private car park operators under existing legislation.

It added that questions had been raised around the capacity of Police Scotland to properly enforce the misuse of disabled persons' parking spaces, given their competing priorities and it welcomed the Scottish government's commitment to look at the opportunities for each local authority to adopt decriminalised parking enforcement powers.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "Those findings will help to develop provisions for the forthcoming Transport Bill - and we will also consider opportunities to further improve awareness and enforcement of disabled parking places.

"We recognise that there is a requirement to provide greater consistency around on and off street parking - and we encourage all local authorities to adopt some form of decriminalised parking enforcement arrangements."

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