FEWER than half of MSPs were prepared to back the measure allowing councils to introduce a parking tax, and yet it has completed its final stage and passed into law. That mixed result is understandable, because while there are many good reasons to back the initiative, there are equally strong arguments against it, at least in the form proposed by the SNP-Green alliance that has pushed it through.

Even those who regard talk of a “climate emergency” as hyperbole ought to concede that the reduction of car use has demonstrable benefits in reducing pollution, and is more or less essential if Scotland is to meet its well-meaning, but highly ambitious, carbon reduction targets. Nor is it especially contentious to argue that the country's urban planning policy, more or less since the end of the Second World War, has worked on the assumption that private car use would and should increase, and that that approach has been greatly to the detriment of the environment and infrastructure of our cities, particularly Glasgow.

But it is precisely because of that legacy that it is problematic to introduce this legislation. No matter how desirable it may be to move away from our reliance on the car, the blunt truth is that in the here and now many people are reliant on it, and that public transport provision is often completely inadequate. That is particularly true for those, often on low wages, who work unsociable hours or who live some distance from urban centres.

Just as the horse comes before the cart, the bus or the train needs to come before the car. It is not enough to ringfence revenue from the parking tax for public transport; the provision needs to be in place first, if there is to be any realistic prospect of reducing overall use. Hypothecation of tax revenue is, in any case, largely a fiction; the cuts just come elsewhere. And without adequate public transport provision, this measure amounts to no more than an extra cost that, like most impositions, will be hardest upon those least able to afford it, and which makes a nonsense of its ostensible purpose.

For the same reason, it's absurd to propose an exemption for public sector workers (provision has already been made to do so for NHS staff and GPs). If the aim of a parking tax is to meet environmental targets, that cannot be done by applying the rules selectively, especially since more than a fifth of the Scottish workforce are in the public sector. Nor is it equitable; plenty of private sector workers are worse off than, for example, GPs. No matter how desirable, or even essential, a parking tax may seem as a stick, the changes it is intended to produce cannot come without the provision of a carrot, in the form of viable alternatives to private car use.

Hurrah for zimmer amnesty

The “zimmer amnesty” is a thoroughly good idea. Despite the consensus – almost amounting to unanimity – that the NHS is the pride of the UK and should be defended against any reform of its structure, no one ought to doubt that there are in it elements of waste and unnecessary costs. Minimising them is not some sort of assault on the principle of healthcare free at the point of use, but the only means by which we can continue to provide it.

An annual cost to the public purse for walking aids to the tune of £220,000 – which is what Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board spent this year alone — would enjoy everyone’s support if it were going to those who genuinely need them. But if those crutches and walking sticks are simply cluttering up the houses of people who no longer require them, it is an expense that is much harder to justify. Every penny of that sum, after all, is money unavailable for other areas of the NHS.