Controversial plans to introduce a new tax on workplace parking spaces will be given the go-ahead after efforts to scrap the levy failed.

Opposition MSPs tabled a series of amendments in Holyrood aimed at diluting or axing the plans, which will give councils the power to impose a tax on employers. Critics fear this will be passed on to staff.

Attempts to halt the levy were defeated by the SNP and the Greens during a mammoth debate lasting seven hours – clearing the way for the tax to be rubber-stamped this afternoon as part of the wide-ranging Transport Bill.

Green MSP John Finnie said: “The new powers over workplace parking levies will allow local government in our biggest cities to tackle congestion, air pollution and the climate emergency.

“Councils have been asking for these powers for years, and I’m delighted that Greens have been able to deliver this simple and effective change, which will raise much needed funds to improve local public transport services.”

Plans for the workplace parking tax were introduced following a last-minute Budget deal between the SNP and the Greens which secured £34 billion-worth of financial plans for 2019/20.

Nottingham is currently the only place in the UK to have introduced such a levy. It charges employers with more than ten bays £415 per space. Many choose to pass this on to staff.

Under the Scottish scheme, NHS and GP premises will automatically be exempt, but further exemptions will be a matter for individual local authorities. Edinburgh and Glasgow have both expressing an interest in introducing the levy.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby, who tabled an amendment to scrap the tax, said it was “nothing more than a political fix to pass a budget”.

His party also sought to exempt lower-paid workers, single parents and the drivers of ultra-low emission cars. It previously argued public sector bodies face a hit of at least £5 million under the plans – a figure calculated using the charge per space in Nottingham.

Mr Bibby said: “The SNP’s workplace parking levy has been sold as a new revenue stream to fund struggling public services, but in reality it will hit public sector budgets for £5 million they simply don’t have. When cash-strapped public bodies are handed the bill, it’s more than likely that – like other employers hit by the car park tax – they will pass it on to their workers.

“Councils need adequate funding - not a sticking plaster which will hit the poor and siphon funding from colleges and universities.”

He earlier told MSPs: “Be in no doubt, this levy is a regressive tax on workers that will the lowest paid hardest.

“It is not consequence-free, it is not fundamentally a solution to climate change and far from incentivising modal shift, it penalises those for whom modal shift is not an option.

“It’s not an option because for many working people, public transport in Scotland is simply not good enough.”

But Transport Secretary Michael Matheson accused Scottish Labour of hypocrisy and inconsistency.

He pointed to Labour-run Nottingham, as well as the fact workplace parking levies featured in Labour’s local manifestos in both Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2017.

He said the legislation would hand councils a “power, not a duty”.

He added: “There is a high degree of local decision making in how a scheme is set up, with local authorities having wide powers to shape how that scheme is shaped to meet local needs.

“There are detailed requirements to carry out impact assessments and to consult widely.

“And funds raised can only be used for activities to promote the objectives of local transport strategies and to meet the costs of those schemes.”

The Scottish Tories submitted numerous amendments attempting to secure automatic exemptions for care workers, teachers, firefighters, police officers, prison staff, shift workers and night workers, among others.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The simple fact is that the car park tax is a bad idea.

“It is a bad idea because it is a regressive tax likely to cost up to £500 a year which will hit lowest paid workers the hardest.

He added: “And it is a measure that has simply not been thought though. There was no economic analysis of the new tax, there was no consultation with any businesses, other organisations or stakeholders before it was proposed and we have very little detail as to how this tax will work in practice.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Workplace parking levies are a charter for extra cost and complexity and it is disappointing MSPs are backing them.

“The introduction of a levy will see firms’ taxed twice for the parking places they provide for staff, on top of the business rates already paid on those spaces.”

Elsewhere, environmental campaigners hit out at MSPs for failing “to take the urgent action required to cut air pollution and reduce climate emissions”.

Friends of the Earth Scotland criticised “grace periods” in the Transport Bill which would allow councils up to six years to fully implement Low Emission Zones.

Campaigner Gavin Thomson added: “MSPs have failed to support amendments which could have speeded up the introduction of LEZs and ensured a greater reduction in climate emissions from transport.”