Justice Secretary pledges to listen to police call for parking tax exemption

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has told police officers he is listening to their calls for an exemption to the workplace parking levy.

Scottish Police Federation (SPF) chairwoman Andrea MacDonald said increasing terror threats and shift patterns restrict officers’ ability to use public transport.

Speaking at the SPF conference, she called on Mr Yousaf not to impose the car park tax for the police service.

“Imposing this parking levy does nothing to mitigate the risks police officers face, nor is it realistic to expect a desperately underfunded police service to bear that burden,” she said.

“I am concerned that the NHS gets an exemption and we don’t, considering how much of their work we do.”

The workplace parking levy was a key part of a deal between the SNP and the Greens, enabling the minority administration to get its tax and spending plans through Holyrood in January.

Councils will be given the power to impose the tax through an amendment to current proposed transport legislation going through the Scottish Parliament, with NHS premises exempted.

The Justice Secretary has spoken to Green MSP John Finnie who is bringing forward the amendment.

“I hear what you are saying,” Mr Yousaf told the conference.

“I’ve encouraged [John Finnie] to listen to your concerns and ideas about the possibility of exemption for police workplaces.”

Questioned later if the Scottish Government would bring forward its own exemption if this was not included in the Green amendment, he said he would “withhold judgement until I see the Green amendment”.

The exemption was one of a series of demands Ms MacDonald made at the conference, including that all those who assault police officers are held in custody to appear in court, and that the force be adequately resourced as she said it is “stretched beyond breaking point”.

She said a person spitting on a police officer would be “highly likely to have the charge plea bargained away”.

She added: “It is commonplace for people who assault police officers to be released from custody rather than held for court.”

Mr Yousaf said: “There is a penalty of up to 12 months imprisonment and a £10,000 fine but what you are telling me very clearly is that you don’t feel that the courts are imposing that in cases where a police officer is assaulted.”

He said he was “disturbed” to hear this and pledged to raise the issue with the Lord Advocate.

The Justice Secretary also vowed graduates from other professions will not be fast-tracked into Scotland’s police service at higher ranks as has happened in England and Wales.

Mr Yousaf said he plans to bring in restitution orders so those who attack officers have to pay towards support services to address physical and mental health impacts of these assaults.

He added that the police budget remains protected and officer numbers are higher than when the SNP came to power.

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