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Transport (Scotland) Bill: some initial thoughts

Published 17 June 2018 by Transform Scotland

The Scottish Ministers introduced the Transport (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 11 June 2018. We had already made known our thoughts on how the Bill could be improved in our report ‘Getting the Bill Right’ published earlier that month. Here our policy advisor Chris Day sets out some initial thoughts on the Bill. We will, of course, be revising these further once we have studied the Bill’s provisions further.

 

We welcome much of the content of the Bill. One exception concerns the provisions on parking, as set out below. Nevertheless, we would characterise the Bill as a missed opportunity, which is particularly unfortunate, as we expect that there will not be time for further measures in the current Parliament. We will, of course, be exploring with the Parliament whether some of the issues we raised in our ‘Getting the Bill Right’ report can be included in the Bill during its passage through the Parliament.

Whilst most of the Bill is largely as expected, a number of issues must be considered. The most serious of these concern the provisions on parking. The Government had previously indicated that it would address parking on pavements.

However, whilst this is in principle made an offence, exemptions include motor vehicles loading or unloading, for up to 20 minutes. This is a significant loophole which was not expected. It undermines the purpose of this section, as it effectively gives carte blanche to pavement parking in areas where there is commercial activity. In practice it means only pavement parking in residential areas is prohibited. Whilst this is important, it is only part of problem which the Bill claims to address.

Furthermore, it is unnecessary even if there is a case for allowing pavement parking in some circumstances; local authorities would be able to exempt specific locations anyway. The loading/unloading exemption means a TRO is the only mechanism available to prevent pavement parking; despite the documents accompanying the Bill stating that the difficulty of using TROs is a major justification for this part of it.

It flies in the face of the preceding consultation where only 15% of respondents supported any exemption for delivery vehicles. Only 18% favoured such an exemption even on grounds of safety (whereas the draft Bill is much wider i.e. where the loading/unloading otherwise ‘cannot reasonably be carried out’). This is fewer than the proportion of respondents who favoured no exemptions of any kind.

The Government proclaimed that this Bill would address the issues identified in Sandra White MSP’s Bill in the preceding session of parliament. That Bill included no provision for loading/unloading on pavements; neither, as far as we are aware, did the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, which scrutinised that Bill, raise it as an omission.

The draft Bill also prohibits double parking, but allows the same exemptions as for pavement parking, therefore undermining these provisions as well. It also raises the question whether double parking is a ‘reasonable’ alternative to the pavement.

In summary, these clauses not only undermine the bill, but are an egregious breach of the spirit of the consultation conducted beforehand.

The provisions of the Bill concerning buses are as expected; potentially useful but by no means sufficient to address the declining patronage which is one of the Government’s primary objectives.

BSIPs do not require local authorities to invest in infrastructure (unlike the legislation it replaces), but provide for them to introduce supportive measures such as reducing parking.

The Bill provides for local authorities to require information from operators, which can be used for Traveline and/or real-time information.

It appears that at least the larger Councils do not wish to operate services directly. They therefore need to consider how to ensure any interventions do not squeeze small operators in their areas, who may be under pressure from other new requirements in the Bill. The risk otherwise is that only the large operators will survive, which neither proponents of nationalisation nor privatisation appear to want.