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Obeying the law?

Brian Taylor | 11:53 UK time, Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A few questions. Have you ever left your car in a disabled parking bay? Did you have the authority to do that in the shape of a blue badge?

No? Do you think you should have been fined for that? Do you think, in short, that there should be a power to enforce the proper use of disabled bays?

Jackie Baillie MSP does and today, backed by councillors and a raft of voluntary organisations, she formally introduced her Member's Bill to do just that.

If the Bill becomes law, you'd pay a fine in future for abusing disabled bays - £30 if you pay within 14 days, £60 after that.

A few more questions. Have you witnessed abuse of the disabled badge system? Have you seen seemingly fit thirty somethings jump out of a car which is displaying a badge and is parked in a reserved bay?

Would you be more inclined to tolerate the new fines if you also saw a crack down on that form of abuse?

At today's launch, Councillor Alistair Watson - a transport expert who chairs SPT - backed the Bill. But he also said there was an "epidemic" of abuse of the badge system itself.

One survey in Glasgow had disclosed 60 to 70 per cent abuse - that's where cars were being parked by a named driver but without the disabled badge holder present.

In Edinburgh, they found cases where the badges were retained by a family after the holder had died.

Shouldn't that be tackled in tandem with the new Bill? Jackie Baillie says yes - but it's up to the Scottish Government to enforce this issue, using existing powers under fraud legislation.

She says legislation, especially Members' Bills, has to be kept simple to succeed.

At present, some 85 per cent of disabled bays in Scotland can't be enforced by the police or wardens.
Her Bill would mean they were all capable of being enforced, either directly because they are in local authority hands or through negotiated agreements with private operators such as supermarkets.

Here's a thought. Is it possible that there might be a serious clampdown on badge abuse as a by-product of the new law on abuse of bays?

If wardens and police gain powers over abuse of disabled bays by those without badges, might they also take the chance to tackle those who are misusing the badges?

Laws are there to be enforced. But, in the longer term, legislation requires public consent and tolerance. In that regard, equity helps.

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