MORE THAN half a million people are now waiting to sit their driving tests as the pandemic forces an emergency stop to assessments.

According to information provided by the UK Government there is a backlog of almost 30,000 Scots waiting to sit their tests, with learners handing out more than £2million for theory exams which will now have to be retaken.

It comes after The Herald highlighted the plight of thousands of Scots who were facing double fees for sitting their tests due to theory certificates expiring.

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald has been lobbying the UK Government's Department for Transport (DfT) to give a clearer timeframe of when testing centres will be able to open again, and has called for ministers to address the issue of additional costs for some learners.

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She has repeatedly asked the UK Government to enable those whose theory tests have recently expired to be able to sit it again for free, however ministers have rejected her suggestions and say there are no plans to change the legislation in order for this to be possible.

In Northern Ireland ministers agreed to extend theory test expiry dates for eight months while the backlog in tests was rectified,

The DfT has agreed to extend the MOT certificate for cars, which Ms Oswald said could potentially be a greater safety risk than extending the validity of the theory test.

Now the MP for East Renfrewshire is to raise a motion in Parliament today on the issue.

The Herald: Kirsten Oswald won Renfrewshire East from  Jim Murphy

Ms Oswald, the SNP's deputy Westminster leader, said: "The UK government’s response to this growing issue is simply not good enough. I raised this issue last year and still nothing has been done to prevent further unnecessary costs for learner drivers.

“I am regularly being approached by constituents expressing frustration that their theory test validity will run out through no fault of their own.

"Quite rightly, they expect the UK Government to act on this.

“With a backlog of over half a million candidates already waiting for practical driving tests, neither the UK Government nor the DVSA seem to be collecting even the basic information they need to manage this process in the interest of the country.

“With delivery services booming because of changes in the economy, a driving licence will be a vital passport to a job for many people. There will also be new people facing mobility challenges who need a licence or a driver.

“I have written to the Transport Secretary asking for an urgent statement on how he plans to clear the backlog of practical driving tests and to minimise any financial burden on learner drivers because of the pandemic. I am urging him to take immediate action on this."

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Asked by Ms Oswald how many theory test certificates were due to expire while lockdown was in place, Rachel Maclean MP, junior transport minister, said that 118,000 theory tests were due to expire between March 25 and September 30 2020 there were 118,000 tests due to expire - 34,000 more than would be normally expected in a six month period.

Around 14,000 people a month allow their certificates to expire without intending to sit their driving test.

On providing free re-sits for the theory tests, Ms Maclean added: "If candidates were exempted from having to pay for one re-test, then the DVSA would have incurred costs of up to £1.5m if all of the 118,000 learners chose to retake the theory test.

"In addition, applications for a re-test would need to have been validated and systems amended to remove the requirement for payment in these cases.

"No estimate was made of these additional costs to the DVSA. The fee for any practical test booking was refunded on expiry of the candidates’ theory test certificate."

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We realise some learners will be disappointed with our decision not to extend theory test certificates, but this is so drivers do not hold onto certificates for a disproportionately long time, impacting on their road safety skills when on the road on their own for the first time.”