SCOTTISH business leaders are calling on council leaders to waive city centre parking charges in the run-up to Christmas.

In a joint letter to local government umbrella organisation Cosla, they have appealed for the removal of "discouraging" parking charges in a bid to help companies struggling with declining footfall caused by the pandemic.

Penned by Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall, it is signed by eight further groups including the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland and the Chambers of Commerce.

With travel restrictions currently in place, they say many people are prevented from going to their destination of choice for shopping or entertainment.

The letter reads: “Removing as many barriers as possible to enable those businesses who believe they can trade in a meaningful and profitable way must be a priority for local and central government.

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“The cost of parking in our towns and cities is viewed by a number of business organisations as a major barrier to trade and we would therefore ask that consideration is given to removing all local authority parking charges in the run-up to Christmas to create the stimulation needed to bring life back to our local economies.

“As a regressive charge, taking no account of ability to pay, parking charges discourage all from travelling safely to local shops and restaurants at a time when consumers are painfully mindful of income, expenditure and future financial uncertainty.

“We acknowledge the financial challenges faced by all of Scotland’s local authorities and the importance of parking fees as revenue stream and would therefore ask that the Scottish Government consider diverting a portion of the £1 billion allocated to Scotland by the Treasury to each of our local authorities to enable a waive on parking charges for at least until the end of this calendar year to allow businesses the best possible chance to trade in the run-up to Christmas.”

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Umbrella group Cosla has since responded, acknowledging the impact coronavirus restrictions have had on businesses.

However, they have emphasised that council budgets are already suffering significant losses at this time.

A Cosla spokesman said: “We recognise the impact of the pandemic and current travel restrictions on the Scottish tourism and retail industry, with businesses in our towns and city centres particularly affected.

“Covid-19 has also put substantial pressures on local government budgets and led to significant income losses across key council services, including parking charges.”