Strong political leadership will be key if Scottish councils choose to introduce a workplace parking levy, MSPs have been told.

As part of its budget agreement with the Greens earlier this year, the Scottish Government pledged to allow local authorities to introduce such a levy, if they want to, as part of measures to reduce congestion and tackle air pollution.

It follows a similar scheme introduced by Nottingham City Council (NCC) in 2012.

Speaking at Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the head of transport strategy at Nottingham City Council, Chris Carter, said it would be possible for local authorities, particularly those with a minority, to pass such a measure if there is a “clear vision” of what can be achieved by it.

“I think you need strong political leadership,” Mr Carter said.

“Exactly what form that takes will be different in different areas but I think strong political leadership is absolutely essential.

“As long as there’s agreement around a vision then it would work. But I think leadership is the key.”

Mr Carter also suggested reaction from the public had been mixed.

He said: “You had different reactions from different people.

“City residents, who are predominantly those people who get impacted by traffic, congestion, pollution and all the other adverse impacts of traffic generally support it because they can see the benefits in the investment and they can see that that is beneficial to them.

“People who are likely to drive into Nottingham from further afield are going to say that they’ve been negatively impacted.

“So it impacts different people in different ways.”

Parking stock
Professor Stephen Ison says Nottingham was ‘very brave’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Professor of transport policy at Loughborough University, Stephen Ison, said: “These are very difficult, very thorny measures.

“You have to be very brave, you have to have a vision because it’s not easy.

“You are actually implementing a disincentive, you’re introducing a charge, some would call it a tax. I think Nottingham were very brave.”

Concerns have been raised by opposition MSPs that the levy could have an adverse impact on lower paid workers.

Mr Carter explained it would be possible for organisations to charge a different amounts for parking, if they choose to introduce the charge at all.

He said: “The levy is a charge on the employer. So the employer pays the actual charge.

“It’s up to the employer to decide how or if at all that it passes that on to its employees.

“Take the city council (Nottingham) – it does actually charge different amounts for different car parks in different parts of the city and it does actually change the amount that people pay depending on their salary.

“Now that’s the employer’s decision to do that and there are other employers who do similar schemes or quite different schemes.

“It’s really up to the employer to decide if they charge or pass on the levy at all.”

Prof Ison said: “There are organisations that have a very sophisticated way of allocating the charge to their workforce based on salary and also on the vehicle’s engine size, and so they have a sliding scale which takes all of that into account.

“So you could be paying an awful lot or you could be paying very little depending on what your salary structure is like and also what type of vehicle you’re using.

“But that has been left up to the individual organisations themselves as to how they implement that, if at all.”