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13 September 2017, 07:11
MSPs are calling on the Scottish Government to commit to a public awareness campaign to crack down on the abuse of disabled parking spaces.
Legislation came into force in 2009 aimed at making all disabled persons' parking places legally enforceable, preventing the misuse of such parking places by those not entitled to use them.
Reviewing the law, Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee heard some positive changes have occurred but "the abuse of disabled persons' parking places was still having a huge impact on people's lives".
In a report, the committee said witnesses - including disability charities, local authority representatives and private car park owners such as Tesco and NCP - unanimously agreed the main factor underpinning the misuse of the parking spaces was a public lack of understanding about the effect on disabled people.
Witnesses from disability charities claimed the misuse would continue because of a "lack of enforcement".
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.
The committee said although councils were complying with converting advisory disabled spaces to be legally enforceable as required by the Disabled Persons' Parking Places (Scotland) Act, private car park operators had taken less action.
Holyrood was unable to change the law relating to private parking spaces as it is reserved to Westminster and the committee said enforcement measures taken in these areas "do not go far enough".
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.
"We also recommend a review of how disabled parking abuse is enforced, which would help strengthen this message further."