The Parking Ticket Epidemic in Scotland


Dominic Sellar & Co. investigates the ticket happy culture common in many Scottish councils.


Many newspaper column inches are dedicated to the struggles of motorists fighting private parking tickets. Many decry them illegal, some call them powerless and a few lambaste them as immoral.

Little, however, is spent questioning the tickets issued through either Police Scotland or local councils.

There seems to be an implicit acceptance that parking tickets issued on public land are like the permanently late train or the almighty downpour as soon as you open your door, that they are just another inevitable part of life.

Our position at the heart of road traffic offers a unique perspective on the situation. Every day we hear about hundreds of complaints about unjust parking penalties. The volume of complaints suggests that it’s not simply the inconsiderate and uncaring that are caught out but thousands of generally law abiding motorists too.

Through a series of freedom of information requests made by our team at Dominic Sellar & Co., we can now reveal incredible extent of public ticketing carried out by councils across Scotland.

The Scale of the Problem

Over the past three years, the number of parking tickets issued in Scotland has increased by 10 percent from 462,302 to 512,056. Over the same period, the number of vehicles registered on the roads has only increased by 2 percent from 2,369,000 to 2,436,000.

While more vehicles will inevitably mean more tickets, there growth in ticketing far outstrips the rise in vehicles. Perhaps, though, a rise in vehicle numbers means an nonlinear growth in tickets.

Or perhaps the growth of the problem betrays a deeper underlying issue: Motorists are not treated as citizens but as a cash cows.

A report recently published by the RAC Foundation shows that Scottish councils made an astounding £33.5m profit from parking charges and fines over the last financial year.

In the light of this research, many will wonder whether Scottish parking policies are guided by anything other than naked profiteering.

Ticket Happy Cities

Of the 32 Scottish councils, just two issued the majority of tickets. Unsurprisingly, the two councils belong to Scotland’s two largest Scottish cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Glasgow City Council was responsible for 114,317 tickets during 2013/2014, which works out at one ticket for every five people in the city.

Along the M8, Edinburgh City Council issued an unbelievable 179,340 parking tickets during the same period – around one third of the national total. At one ticket for every two and a half residents, many feel it’s a figure far too high.

In defence of the councils, Glasgow and Edinburgh have been steadily decreasing the number of tickets they issue for the past three years. During 2011/2012, 185,098 tickets were issued in Edinburgh. The next year the figure had fallen to 181,756. Glasgow followed a similar trend with 126,136 tickets issued in 2011/2012 and 118,217 the next.

The two councils jointly account for almost 60% of all tickets issued in Scotland.

Research conducted in parallel by the RAC Foundation shows that councils across the country are making record profits from parking charges and fines.

Key culprit amongst them was Edinburgh City Council. The Foundation claims that Edinburgh made around £15m profit during the last year – almost half of the national £33.5m profit. Glasgow netted a £10.3m profit and Aberdeen earned a measly £5m.

Of all the Scottish councils, 16 made a profit, 13 made a loss and Shetland was reported to have broken even.
Stephen Glaister, Professor of Transport and Infrastructure at Imperial College London and director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Not all authorities are generating a surplus but overall we are talking about big money.

“Nobody wants a parking free-for-all but when we are talking about such large sums, local authorities should be transparent with residents and drivers about what their parking policy is, why charges are set at the level they are and where the profits are going.”

At this moment, I should be clear: no one at Dominic Sellar & Co. is advocating a complete abolishment of parking restrictions.

Many older towns and cities were designed for horses and struggle to cope with modern transport. Even modern towns, which were built with the car in mind, sometimes fail to cope with the sheer volume commuters.

If Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen was to repeal all parking restrictions today, they would grind to a halt in hours. Cars would come pile up in their city centres and existing bottlenecks would quickly worsen to impassable blockades.

To operate with any semblance of order, towns and cities need restrictions and they need motorists to obey them.

However, these restrictions ought to be guided by the goal of the betterment of the lives of the citizens and not by the chime of the cash register.

Data Not Provided

Several Scottish councils did not to respond to our freedom of information requests. East Lothian, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire failed to return replies by the time of this article’s publication.
North Lanarkshire do not charge for parking at its car parks.

Full Data

Below is the full data obtained via freedom of information requests issued to all of Scotland’s 32 councils. For the data in alternative forms, please contact our team.


Number of tickets issued during 2011/2012

Number of tickets issued during 2012/2013

Number of tickets issued during 2013/2014

Aberdeen City Council 49,246 43,560 47,320
Aberdeenshire Council 1,019 940 1,451
Argyll and Bute 1,407 1,667 1,146
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar N/A N/A N/A
Clackmannanshire Council 0 0 0
Dumfries and Galloway 752 473 1,025
Dundee City Council 20,325 18,673 23,180
East Dunbartonshire 0 0 0
Edinburgh City Council 185,098 181,756 179,340
East Lothian Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable
Falkirk Council 607 385 234
Fife Council 0 0 16,948
Glasgow City Council 126,136 118,217 114,317
Midlothian Council 0 0 0
North Lanarkshire Not provided Not provided Not provided
Orkney Council 403 358 439
Perth and Kinross 23,183 21,536 21,003
Renfrewshire 10,291 7,118 9,432
Shetland 0 0 0
South Lanarkshire Not provided Not provided Not provided
Stirling 1696 2922 2184
West Lothian 0 0 0
Angus Council 0 0 0
East Renfrewshire 0 0 5,055
Highland Council 0 0 0
Inverclyde Council 0 0 0
The Moray Council 366 339 199
Scottish Borders 1817 1410 1072
West Dunbartonshire Not provided Not provided Not provided