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Parking in Edinburgh means there is a chance of you making a contribution to the amount the city makes in parking fines annually. The City of Edinburgh Council applies its rules about parking in Edinburgh in a zealous and thorough way. So much so, in fact, that Edinburgh made £6.9 million from parking fines in 2008/ 9 - or over £11.50 per person if you take the daytime city population. By comparison, the larger Scottish city of Glasgow only made £5.5 million, or about £7.86 per person. Parking in Edinburgh brought in more cash to the city than in any other part of Scotland. In fact, it brought in more cash than any other authority area in the whole of the UK, except for a few authorities in London, England.
Now, rules are rules and, trust me, there are no exceptions in Edinburgh. Flexibility is not a concept with which the enforcers are familiar. For example, recently, (see the picture, left) I hurriedly parked the car at the end of a three-bay space near a corner with double yellow lines. I must have been trying to be extra careful to avoid the yellow lines and the rear of the car definitely protruded into the next bay. When I returned, having paid what I thought was a large sum of money for the privilege of parking in Edinburgh on a quiet street with lots of spaces, I saw that the other two bays had cars in them. Nevertheless, I also found that dreaded envelope stuck to the windshield. I had collected a fine for parking in Edinburgh incorrectly in my bay. Rules are rules. I was several inches outside the bay markings - though this may not make me an irredeemably bad person. I may have actually made the sight lines safer by not parking too close to the corner and a small car even parked behind me - but these circumstances are irrelevant.
By way of an exercise only I challenged the ticket and was told in the response that "The legislation requires that when a vehicle is parked in a public parking bay every part of the vehicle must be contained within the bay markings." Fair enough, I suppose. "While we can appreciate that you made a genuine error, we are unable to take this into account when considering this case. We understand that motorists may inadvertently park incorrectly however the parking regulations must be applied equally to all motorists…" and more in similar vein.
Peter Roberts, Chief Executive at the Drivers' Alliance, says: "Parking enforcement has become a massive money making industry and we are seeing unscrupulous and target driven enforcement of parking laws where the penalties far outweigh the offence……" ( And nowhere more so than in Edinburgh, I reckon.)
So, picture the setting. It's October, late in the afternoon, quiet and off-peak in a not very busy part of Edinburgh (off the Pleasance). There are plenty of spaces round the corner and even though I've parked incorrectly in a three-bay area, two other cars are there when I return. OK, I admit it, there's just the slightest hint of 'give a guy a break' in all this. A helpful little note saying we'll let you off this once - but don't do it again - would have been nice. (Yes, I must be naïve!)
Sometimes, Edinburgh doesn't seem a friendly place. As for parking in Edinburgh, the motorist, visitor or resident alike, is simply a cash-cow. This is ironic in the city whose administrators' attempts to improve public transport have resulted in the on-going embarrassing shambles of Edinburgh's tram system.
So, bear it in mind if you are visiting Edinburgh city by car. Better still, unless you are visiting by public transport, consider cutting a day from your city itinerary and add it on to a rural area where you won't find parking so potentially expensive. What about Moray, for example? The local authority made over £16,000 in fines in the same period as Edinburgh coined it with its £6.6 million. Imagine that: Edinburgh gets more in a single day by fining motorists than Moray does in a year! And while the Edinburgh amount represent £11.50 per head of population, the Moray total amounts to 15p on the same basis. Or what about spending more time in Highland with a larger area but only £26,000 raised?
Then there is Galloway. Over in the south-west, towns like Wigtown, Kirkcudbright and Castle Douglas, for example, let you park for free - so you can browse around the shops and attractions in a relaxed way. There's more information on Galloway touring here.
So, if you are a visitor with a car in Scotland, enjoy the network of rural roads and still pleasant motoring you will find in many parts of the country. From a driving point of view - give the capital a miss.
And finally: it's an odd thought that if only one visitor spends just one day less in Edinburgh as a result of reading this, then it probably more than cancels the £30 I contributed to the city's coffers as punishment for parking my wheels some inches away from where they should have been!
If you feel that parking in Edinburgh for the city's 'must sees' will not daunt you, then that link takes you to a list of places you'll enjoy.
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Scotland in Three Days