TEACHERS should be exempt from paying a new tax on workplace parking spaces, critics have urged.

Opposition leaders branded plans to allow councils to tax firms whose staff take their cars to work “unpopular and ridiculous”.

It comes after the SNP Government struck a last-minute Budget deal with the Scottish Greens, opening the door to a wave of new local taxes.

The agreement, which secured the minority administration’s £34 billion financial plans for 2019/20, is set to see council tax bills rise by almost five per cent in April.

Meanwhile, local authorities will be handed the power to introduce a new workplace parking levy, which could see workers forced to fork out hundreds of pounds a year to park their car.

The Scottish Government said NHS properties and hospitals will be excluded, and now union leaders and opposition parties have called for teachers to receive similar treatment.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said the new tax risked acting as a “disincentive” to teachers taking up jobs in inner city schools, where parking is tight.

He said: “Teachers are hard-pressed, and then you want to charge them for the privilege of going to work? It won’t go down too well.

“Teachers don’t stop working when they come out of school – they take their books home.

“If you start putting charges on, they will have to carry their books on the bus.

“What would happen is we would be saying to the members, ‘Don’t take the work home.’ That’s going to cause a row with the schools.

“It’s a false economy. It’s hard enough to try and get teachers to come and work in some of the schools at the moment.”

An spokesman for the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, also raised concerns.

He said: “Teachers arrive at school early and often leave late, frequently have to carry heavy books for preparation and correction, plus public transport is often not a realistic option for travel to many schools.

HeraldScotland:

“Teachers’ pay has been cut, in real terms, by more than 20% over the past decade so introducing a parking charge could further increase the financial pressures on teachers.

“Schools in many areas are already struggling to fill teaching posts, so anything that might make working in schools less attractive could exacerbate the current challenges in teacher recruitment and retention.”

Similar proposals in Nottingham resulted in charges of more than £400 a year for those who drove to work.

Edinburgh has previously considered introducing a levy, and looks likely to be among the first to press ahead.

While the parking tax is charged to employers, they can choose to pass on the costs to their staff.

The latest move comes amid the continued threat of industrial action, with teaching unions demanding a 10% pay rise.

Scottish Tory shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “If the SNP wants to crash ahead with this unpopular and ridiculous car park tax plan, the least it could do is exempt teachers.

“The nationalists find themselves in an absurd position of negotiating a pay rise for teachers, while threatening to charge them hundreds of pounds a year for the sake of driving to work.

“That will jeopardise current negotiations with unions, and could lead to them coming good on the industrial action they’ve recently threatened.

“If [Finance Secretary] Derek Mackay thinks NHS workers are worthy of exemptions, then so too are teachers.

“As a matter of urgency, the SNP government also needs to start speaking to smaller firms who could be badly hit by this nonsense tax.

“It needs to establish how this levy will work and what impact it will have on this important part of our economy.”

The SNP-Greens Budget deal also includes plans to empower councils to levy a tourist tax on overnight visitors, alongside longer-term ambitions to abolish and replace council tax.

Mr Mackay said the revisions, which followed days of intense negotiations, were worth an extra £187m for councils.

But critics highlighted research by independent Holyrood researchers showing non-ringfenced council funding will fall by 2.5% in real terms, or £230m.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it would be "engaging with stakeholders" to shape the specifics of any new tax.