MOTORISTS in Scotland are to be banned from parking on pavements after a long running campaign by disability groups.

Footpaths in town centres and suburbs across the country will be cleared of cars following complaints that wheelchair users and parents pushing buggies are being forced to walk in the middle of the road.

The move, announced by transport minister Derek Mackay, was given a cautious welcome by the AA, though the motoring organisation warned against a blanket ban.

It was hailed as "fantastic" by Sandra White, the backbench SNP MSP who has been campaigning at Holyrood on behalf of a range of groups including Guide Dogs for the Blind, disability and pensioners' organisations and Living Streets, the "everyday walking" charity.

In a surprise announcement, Mr Mackay told Holyrood's local government committee an SNP government would bring forward legislation if the party is returned to power after next May's Holyrood election.

The Scottish and UK governments have agreed a last-minute amendment to the Scotland Bill, now going through Westminster, that will ensure Holyrood has the power to legislate on the issue.

Confusion over the extent of the parliament's powers has hampered previous attempts to ban pavement parking.

Mr Mackay said the Scottish Government would support a backbench bill, promoted by the Ms White, which is currently being considered by MSPs.

However, the bill is unlikely to become law before parliament breaks for the election.

Mr Mackay said discussions with local councils and members of the public were required to identify zones that might be exempt from the ban.

He told Holyrood's local government committee: "People don't need to be alarmed that suddenly they cannot park near their homes.

"This will not be like setting a national speed limit that applies universally."

The commitment follows a lengthy campaign to remove cars from pavements.

Campaigners say hundreds of built-up areas are plagued by cars left on pavements or double parked, interfering with pedestrians and the flow of traffic.

A number of MSPs have tried but failed to steer legislation through parliament in the past few years.

Mr Mackay said: "The government will give a commitment to legislate on this if we are not able to do so in the current parliamentary term.

"If re-elected we will legislate because this needs to be done and needs to be done in a way that ensures confidence , compliance and clarity.

"It is very important for the mobility agenda and for our active travel priorities around walking and cycling."

Present laws are confusing.

It is illegal to drive on a pavement but not park there.

The Highway Code says it is bad driving practice to park on a pavement.

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: "It is downright selfish sometimes to park on the pavement.

"But the problem with a blanket ban is there are some locations where people do that to make the road accessible.

"It can be a sensible measure that residents adopt.

"If a blanket ban were enforced rigorously in all places it would be embarrassing.

"If it were tailored to place where people are being selfish, I don't think anyone would have any problems with that.

"Someone with a pushchair or a wheelchair has a right to go out and about."

A blanket ban on pavement parking in London was relaxed following concerns that roads were being obstructed.

Boroughs are now able to designate "permitted areas" where pavement parking improves safety.

The zones are signposted and, in some cases, painted lines show exactly how far cars can encroach on the path.

Ms White said: "I was pleasantly surprised by the minister's announcement.

"I'm so pleased for all the groups that have worked so hard over the years.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel and that's fantastic."

She added: "It is about equality.

"People who are disabled or mums with buggies are forced out into the road and that's very dangerous for them."