MSPs have backed controversial plans for a new parking tax after a key SNP critic executed a ‘spineless’ U-turn to toe the Scottish Government line.

Holyrood’s connectivity committee passed a series of votes paving the way for a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) thanks to Richard Lyle’s conversion.

The Uddingston & Bellshill MSP, the swing vote on the 11-member committee, last month called the WPL an “unfair tax” on motorists, comparing it to a 10p hike in their income tax. “I do not agree with charging somebody who is on a low wage £400 a year,” he had said.

However Mr Lyle performed a volte-face when it came to the Stage 2 vote on the idea, declaring he now wanted councils to have the power to impose the anti-congestion levy.

He admitted he would be criticised for his decision, telling MSPs: “So be it.”

Explaining his decision somewhat unconvincingly, he said he believed in local decision-making: “Some councils will use it, some councils won’t use it, and I think it will be a thingummy.”

Labour called it a “spineless, shameful U-turn”, and the Tories said Mr Lyle had “capitulated”.

It came as the committee began voting on detailed amendments, tabled by Green MSP John Finnie, to the Scottish Government’s Transport Bill.

The committee had been tied five-five, with the Labour, Tory and LibDem MSPs opposed to the WPL, one Green and four SNP MSPs in favour, and Mr Lyle the swing vote.

Mr Lyle’s change saw the SNP-Green amendments sail through the committee stage, and mean the WPL should become law at a later, final vote in the Holyrood chamber.

The result of an SNP-Green deal to pass the 2019/20 Scottish budget, the WPL would see councils empowered to charge employers for their parking spaces.

Nottingham, the only UK city to try a WPL to date, charges firms with 10 or more parking bays £415 each per year, although half of large employers pass on the cost to staff.

Under the Scottish scheme, hospital, and GP surgeries would be automatically exempt, but it would be left to individual councils to decide on any other exemptions.

The plan is opposed by Labour, the LibDems and Tories, and, until today, by Mr Lyle.

READ MORE: SNP MSP compares parking levy to 10p tax hike

Last month at the same committee, Mr Lyle was unambiguous in his opposition to the WPL.

Speaking to an official from Nottingham City Council, he said: ““I contend as a motorist I pay road tax, I pay petrol duty, I pay insurance. Would you not agree that the workplace parking levy is an unfair tax on myself and other people, as a motorist?”

He went on: “This is over and above parking charges. To park in a carpark, yes, I accept that. But this is something that’s never been in place in our country.

“You could just say to me, Let’s put your income tax up by 10 pence, Mr Lyle. Couldn’t you?”

But today Mr Lyle said he would now accept amendments to the Transport Bill proposed by Green MSP John Finnie to create a WPL.

He said: “I have previously made comments about the Workplace Parking Levy. Since those comments I have listened to the evidence being put about by various organisations , and also in particular [council umbrella body] Cosla.

“And I’ve also listened to the point about the climate emergency, and people who are in fact demonstrating outside this parliament today.

“I was previously the SNP group leader on Cosla in 2007-09, and previously a councillor for over three decades, so I believe in localism,

“I believe in councils being able to take decisions on behalf of the thing, and the democratic process.

“But I also learned as politician - and I’m coming up for my 43rd year in politics - where people have made, as I used to do, I used to scaremonger the same as other parties are now doing in this parliament in regards to this policy, and I think some of the amendments that have been put in, and some of the comments that are being made, are totally not correct.

“So therefore today I will be changing my view, and I will be supporting Mr Finnie because I believe that councils should have the ability to raise, if they believe.

“Some councils will use it, some councils won’t use it, and I think it will be a thingummy.

“So I know that at the end of the day I will have people who will come back at me because of the comments that I previously made. Sop be it.

“I have been a politician long enough. But at the end of the day, I have made up my mind.”

READ MORE: SNP MSP Richard Lyle challenged over credibility of court evidence

LibDem MSP Mike Rumbles claimed SNP members on the committee were being whipped to support the Green-SNP amendments, and to reject opposition amendments.

He said he was “deeply saddened” the committee was backing “bad law”.

He said: “The SNP members are being whipped to accept this - it's quite obvious. Stop playing games. This is too important to play games."

Tory committee convener Sir Edward Mountain said the WPL would not work in rural areas where people did not have access to public transport instead of care.

"I do not support the workplace parking levy, I don't support any part of it," he said.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told the committee the WPL proposal was “carefully crafted” and would help tackle the climate emergency.

Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth tweeted: “Given that Dick [Lyle] has caved into the SNP whip and he now passionately supports a workplace parking levy despite stating on numerous cases saying opposes it, does this make him a national villain.

“Suspect others will use stronger phrases to describe such a spineless, shameful u turn.”

Tory Jamie Greene posted: “Richard Lyle capitulates to the SNP whip despite fierce opposition to the hated #carparktax and previously expressing disdain for this regressive tax.

“So it seems it will be rushed through Parliament, the Greens and SNP taxing you for taking your car to work. Good luck with that.”