COUNCILS should look at replacing private parking spaces to allow room for car-sharing strategies to help with Scotland's green recovery, a leading transport charity has said.

CoMoUK, part-funded by Transport Scotland said that local authorities should take a lead in changing commuter habits by introducing car-sharing incentives, saying they should prepare themselves for office-based workers being more likely to work at home in the post-coronavirus era.

A decline in full-time office working as a result of the changes in lifestyle brought by Covid-19 is predicted to result in some people no longer needing a car for daily use.

This in turn could increase the popularity of car-sharing clubs, where users pay a small membership fee to access a shared car parked on a nearby street.

And in a briefing for all 32 local authorities in Scotland, CoMoUK said there should be more spaces for car clubs on public roads and that specific areas should be targeted where people will be changing their working habits.

It suggested replacing private parking spaces with 'shared services' to increase the provision of car club bays, bike share stations and charge point infrastructure.

CoMoUK said car clubs were likely to become a “more practical, cost-efficient and attractive option” for people no longer travelling to and from the office every day.

Its analysis showed that transport is now Scotland's single largest 'emitting sector' accounting for 37% of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest source of transport emissions is cars.

Emissions from car club vehicles in Scotland are on average 43% lower than the average UK car.

Their move comes as one of Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior economic advisors warned that Scottish ministers “don’t have the levers” to invest the amount of cash needed for a green recovery – as he called for less chat and more action from politicians.

Benny Higgins, who chairs the Scottish Government’s advisory group on economic recovery, has stressed that both government and businesses need to show more willing to work together if Scotland has any chance of transitioning to an economy without relying on burning carbon and preparing the country’s workforce for “the kind of jobs that we can expect in the mid-21st century”.

The Scottish Government has stressed it intends to kickstart a green recovery from Covid-19 and has also pledged for the country to become carbon net-zero by 2045.

CoMoUK's briefing for local authorities, said shared transport initiatives can help drive economic recovery.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, 68 per cent of Scotland’s commuters drove to work by car or van and 66 per cent of all car journeys were single occupancy trips.

But most local councils have also declared a climate emergency and are urgently seeking ways to cut carbon emissions, such as by encouraging the use of public transport.

It said shared mobility hubs linking up different forms of transport and the expansion of bike sharing schemes should all be considered.

Its Scotland director Lorna Finlayson also said focusing on deprived areas could improve health outcomes for those on lower incomes, and help tackle ‘transport poverty’.

The Scottish Parliament is currently taking evidence on Scotland’s green recovery, a process aimed at helping the economy deal with challenges posed by coronavirus and climate change.

Ms Finlayson said: “We know that one of the changes in a post-Covid economy will be more people working at home.

“That will reduce the number of commuter journeys made in a car, as many people just won’t see the benefit of running their own vehicle any longer.

“This will open the door for car club schemes, and councils need to be ready with a strategy to take advantage of these shifts in behaviour.

“It benefits everyone, as car clubs are more likely to use environmentally-friendly vehicles, and it will reduce the amount of traffic on the streets while saving people money.

“COVID-19 has devastated Scotland’s economy and we can’t go back to the old ways of doing things.

“If local authorities start preparing for a green future now, it could help save commuters money and move Scotland closer to hitting its climate change targets.”

According to CoMoUK for each car club vehicle in Scotland, around 14 private cars are taken off the road, providing a positive effect on parking, congestion and local air quality.

In her Programme for Government last week, Nicola Sturgeon announced the creation of a new Centre for Workplace Transformation to respond to changes in working behaviour.

The organisation will examine “how and where work takes place” and help businesses become more flexible in allowing home working in the future.

Mr Higgins quizzed by MSPs investigating a green recovery has called for Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 to “focus on green trade”, while also warning that a” green economic recovery is central to recovery overall”.

He was quizzed by MSPs investigating a green recovery from Covid-19 and pointed to other countries that are investing vast amounts of funding to ensure green and low-carbon industries can take off amid the emergence from the crisis.

Convener of Holyrood’s environment, climate change and land reform committee, Gillian Martin, said: “Other countries have responded to their own economic situation, particularly post what we hope is the height of Covid by investing a percentage of their GDP in their green recovery.

“That seems to me, something that seems necessary – it's going to take a lot of investment to get us out of this.

“Do you feel that the Scottish Government has got the levers to be able to do that?”

Mr Higgins, the former Tesco Bank CEO, pointed to Germany, which will invest four per cent of the country’s GDP in its Covid-19 recovery.

He said: “Four per cent of Scotland’s GDP is £6 billion and within the fiscal framework, we are restricted to £450 million which is 0.3 per cent of GDP.

“Quite frankly, we don’t have the levers to invest the amount that would be reasonably required as stimulus to come out of this crisis.”

The Scottish Government has repeatedly called for more spending or borrowing powers form the UK Government in order to equip the country for its recovery from the crisis.

But Mr Higgins, who helped set up the Scottish National Investment Bank, stressed that he does not believe “it’s reasonable or feasible" to "imagine that we could change the whole fiscal framework in a timeframe that is consistent with the emergency that we face”.