SCOTLAND’S councils are a step nearer to being able to introduce a workplace parking levy after MSPs backed the change during a debate on new transport legislation.

Members of Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee voted by six to five to allow a parking levy, with the SNP and Greens for and other parties opposing.

However, the move only passed after one SNP MSP, who had previously been critical of the proposal, voted in favour.

Uddingston and Bellshill MSP Richard Lyle last month called the levy an “unfair tax” on motorists, particularly low earners.

Lyle came under fire over his change of mind. Tory MSP Jamie Green said: “Richard Lyle made statement after statement pointing out the flaws of this tax and how damaging it will be for workers and motorists. Yet, for reasons known only to him, he’s now decided to vote in favour of it.

“That’s cowardly behaviour, and tells you everything you need to know about the so-called progressive SNP.

“He had the opportunity to bring this hated policy down, but instead waved through this bad law on the orders of his nationalist bosses.”

Labour MSP Colin Smyth added: “For weeks he has stated his opposition to it, but now he is giving the green light to this unfair tax on workers.”

The committee unanimously agreed to have national exemptions for disabled parking spaces, NHS premises and hospices, and to allow councils to create their own further exemptions.

Proposals for national exemptions for a wide range of further workers, including the police, fire, coastguard and lifeboat services as well as teachers and carers were voted down by the Greens and SNP.

Green MSP John Finnie proposed the change to enable local authorities to bring in the tax if the Transport Bill is passed when it comes before the Scottish Parliament for a final vote.

“It is for local authorities to determine if they wish to introduce a workplace parking levy,” Finnie said. “This is a power not a duty and empowers local authorities to act.”

Finnie said it would be a way to help address the climate emergency and councils would require to hold a consultation on introducing the tax.

He criticised proposed changes from opposition parties – including attempts to make local authorities hold a referendum before bringing in the tax, for them to be satisfied they have adequate public transport, and to prevent it from applying to business customers – saying some were attempts to “frustrate” the bill.

Finnie stressed it would not apply to motorists going supermarket shopping and said local authorities could chose exemptions to meet their own needs.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said national exemptions should be exceptional and those proposed by Labour, the LibDems and the Tories would “undermine local decision-making and make the scheme unworkable and ineffective”.

The committee’s convener, Tory Edward Mountain, said: “I do not support the workplace parking levy and I do not believe it will achieve anything further from the climate’s point of view.”

He added: “I believe this is a tax on going to work.”

Those opposing the plans criticised the tax powers being proposed as a result of the agreement between the minority SNP administration and the Greens to pass the Budget earlier in the year, with Labour’s Smyth calling it a “murky deal”.

LibDem Mike Rumbles said: “We are making bad law. I think the SNP and Green budget deal has shackled our work.”

Finnie said he was grateful to the committee for backing his proposal. He added: “It is vital that councils have tools at their disposal to tackle climate change and pollution crises and the WPL will play an important part.”