I agree that it is important that blind and partially sighted people are able to use our streets and pavements safely.
I also appreciate that street clutter can be a real problem for those who are blind or partially sighted, parents with pushchairs and wheelchair users.
I was deeply concerned to read the findings of Guide Dog’s report, Streets Ahead, which found that 97% of people with sight loss in the UK have problems with street clutter. I am also aware that pavement parking was identified as the most prevalent street obstacle encountered, followed by overhanging branches, wheelie bins, parked delivery vans, cracked pavements and shop advertising boards. I agree that we need to take action to protect vulnerable pedestrians and all those who use our roads and pavements.
In Scotland, parking is regulated by a variety of primary and secondary legislation. While it is currently not an offence to be parked on the pavement in Scotland, it is an offence to drive on a pavement under Section 129(5) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984.
The Scottish Government has previously pledged to bring forward suitable legislation to address obstructive and irresponsible parking, including pavement parking. In 2017, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on improving parking in Scotland and acknowledged the detrimental impact that obstructive and irresponsible parking can have on vulnerable groups. The consultation closed on 30 June 2017 but no response has been published. I will follow any developments of this issue closely.
I believe we must develop environments that enable disabled people to live independently, not in isolation. In addition, I am aware that local government funding has been cut in Scotland by £1.5 billion since 2011, which has led to a deterioration of local services, from bin collections to road repairs. That is why, at the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to review reforming council tax, and allow local authorities to use new options – such as a tourist tax and land value tax – to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term and to protect local services.
I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue.