THE Scottish Tories have been accused of ripping up their commitment to local democracy after all their council leaders were asked to sign a pledge against the ‘parking tax’.

All 30 Conservative group leaders agreed to oppose the Workplace Parking Levy, saying it was a “tax on jobs” that would penalise workers without access to public transport.

They also declared that every Tory councillor would automatically oppose the charge.

The SNP and Greens said it made a mockery of the 2017 manifesto the Tory councillors were elected on, which called for more local powers.

It complained Scotland was “one of the most centralised countries in the Western world” where power was “delivered in a top-down manner and taken away in the same way”.

Tory councillors in Edinburgh also backed the power for a parking levy last year.

The SNP and Greens said it showed “breath-taking hypocrisy” by the party.

The council-set levy is part of a deal between the SNP and Greens on the 2019/20 budget, which goes to a final vote of MSPs at Holyrood today.

The Tories also plan to drive an advertising trailer across Scotland to oppose the new tax.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said using a truck to oppose an anti-congestion charge betrayed a “shocking lack of understanding of the air pollution health crisis”.

The only workplace parking levy in the UK is in Nottingham, where the council charges employers with more than 10 staff parking bays £415 a year to licence each one.

If employers pass the cost to staff, VAT is added and the bill becomes £498 a year.

NHS staff and hospitals will be exempt, but there have also been calls to exempt other public sector workers such as teachers.

Labour, the Tories, LibDems, business leaders and unions have warned against it.

The Unite union yesterday wrote to all 32 Scottish councils urging them to rule out the “regressive” levy, calling it a “desperate attempt to absolve the Government” from a council funding crisis of its own making.

A Holyrood committee is now consulting on the proposal before a Green amendment is attached to the Transport Bill currently going through parliament later this year.

In practice, it is likely to be several years before any council is able to introduce such a scheme following local consultation, with only congested urban areas likely to do so.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Right across Scotland, Scottish Conservatives are making it clear today that we oppose this unwanted, poorly thought-out tax. It’s now beholden on SNP councillors to follow suit, follow the lead of the Scottish Conservatives, and make clear they too will oppose these ridiculous plans.”

SNP MSP George Adam said: “The public can see right through this two-faced opportunism – parties who demand localism in one breath and then demand Government acts against such policies in the next. Ultimately, it will be up to local authorities to decide whether a workplace parking levy is right for their areas – and if Labour, Tory or SNP councils oppose their use, that’s their choice. But it is outright hypocrisy to oppose giving councils that choice when their own parties have demanded it.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “They once claimed to support localisation, but the Conservatives are apparently now imposing a national ban on their councillors even considering this new power. The increasingly deranged hard right Tories can be expected to ideologically oppose every tax; it’s more shocking that the Labour Party, which introduced this policy in England, and included it in Labour manifestos for Scottish council elections, is also being opportunistic and misleading about what’s being proposed.”

Chris Deerin, director of thinktank Reform Scotland, added: “It is perfectly possible to oppose the imposition of the new levies but believe it should be up to local authorities to decide. Scotland is too centralised and these measures will strengthen local accountability and allow decisions to be made on community need. It is disappointing that some political parties who have previously argued in favour of localism are not embracing this principle.”

Gavin Thomson of Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The workplace parking levy helps achieve a number of goals shared across the political spectrum. It can cut harmful pollution, climate emissions as well as raising money to invest in our public transport system.”

Labour’s James Kelly said the budget would impose £230m of real terms cuts to councils and cause a crisis in Scotland’s communities.