Council bosses in Perth have rejected a call to scrap parking charges during lockdown.
The local authority was urged by SNP MP Pete Wishart to follow counterparts in Fife and Dundee and suspend fees to help support businesses and key workers.
But Perth and Kinross Council claimed such a move would be too costly and time-consuming to set up for just three weeks.
Charges were suspended to “help key workers who could no longer access public transport to travel to work, and to reduce the need for people to handle cash” on March 23, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown. At the time, Mr Johnson said the lockdown would run for three weeks before it was reviewed.
Mr Wishart welcomed recent decisions by other Courier Country councils to halt fees.
“We know that money is tight for people at the moment and it is harder for small independent retailers to compete with large supermarkets who provide fee car parking,” he said. “It is not a panacea by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that going back to providing free city and town centre parking would help businesses in those areas.”
He added: “This shouldn’t be terribly difficult to bring about.”
The council’s environment and infrastructure Angus Forbes said the idea had been considered and rejected.
“When the First Minister announced a three-week lockdown, we discussed this and came to the conclusion that the expense and time to change the signage and adjust the meters wasn’t practical for a three week period,” he said.
“If the First Minister changes her mind and we are locked down for longer, then we can look again at the decision.”
Mr Forbes said the vast majority of other Scottish authorities were still charging for parking.
“I don’t believe it’s appropriate to be encouraging people to be coming to our towns at the moment, while Scotland is being advised to stay at home and most shops are closed,” he said.
“There is also the brutal fact that the council does depend on revenue, and whether or not we are charging for parking, we need to pay the salaries of the parking attendants who did so much great work during the last lockdown, delivering food and looking out for vulnerable people. They may need to do the same again.”
Perth and Kinross Council lost an estimated £4.8 million income from parking payments while charges were suspended.
They were reintroduced at the beginning of August, with a 10% increase which was described as “poor timing”.
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