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Parking in Edinburgh means expect no mercy

Parking in Edinburgh with its punitive parking regime can take the pleasure out of a visit to Scotland's capital, where the motorist is a cash-cow.

Parking in Edinburgh

Parking in Edinburgh means there is a chance of you making a contribution to the amount the city makes in parking fines annually. The City of Edinburgh Council applies its rules about parking in Edinburgh in a zealous and thorough way. So much so, in fact, that Edinburgh made £6.9 million from parking fines in 2008/ 9 - or over £11.50 per person if you take the daytime city population.

By comparison, the larger Scottish city of Glasgow only made £5.5 million, or about £7.86 per person. Parking in Edinburgh brought in more cash to the city than in any other part of Scotland.

In fact, it brought in more cash than any other authority area in the whole of the UK, except for a few authorities in London, England. (The updates figures for 2011-12 in Edinburgh are £11,129,031 from pay and display machines, plus £2,222,474 from RingGo, that mysterious but useful mobile phone method.)

Parking incorrectly in Edinburgh

Not quite in that Edinburgh parking bay. Ooops.

Not quite in that Edinburgh parking bay. Ooops.

Now, rules are rules and, trust me, there are no exceptions in Edinburgh. Flexibility is not a concept with which the enforcers are familiar.

For example, a year or two ago, (pictured here) I hurriedly parked the car at the end of a three-bay space near a corner with double yellow lines.

I must have been trying to be extra careful to avoid the yellow lines and the rear of the car definitely protruded into the next bay.

When I returned, having paid what I thought was a large sum of money for the privilege of parking in Edinburgh on a quiet street with lots of spaces, I saw that the other two bays had cars in them.  So I didn't deprive anyone of a parkng space.

Nevertheless, I also found that dreaded envelope stuck to the windshield. I had collected a fine for parking in Edinburgh incorrectly in my bay. Rules are rules. I was several inches outside the bay markings - though this may not make me an irredeemably bad person.

I may have actually made the sight lines safer by not parking too close to the corner  - but these circumstances are irrelevant.

By way of an exercise only I challenged the ticket and was told in the response that “The legislation requires that when a vehicle is parked in a public parking bay every part of the vehicle must be contained within the bay markings.” Fair enough, I suppose.

“While we can appreciate that you made a genuine error, we are unable to take this into account when considering this case. We understand that motorists may inadvertently park incorrectly however the parking regulations must be applied equally to all motorists…” and more in similar vein.

A fine for a parking offence in Edinburgh – the unwanted souvenir of the city.

A fine for a parking offence in Edinburgh – the unwanted souvenir of the city.

Peter Roberts, Chief Executive at the Drivers’ Alliance, says: “Parking enforcement has become a massive money making industry and we are seeing unscrupulous and target driven enforcement of parking laws where the penalties far outweigh the offence……” 

And nowhere more so than in Edinburgh, I reckon.) The Edinburgh motorist as cash-cow

So, picture the setting. It’s October, late in the afternoon, quiet and off-peak in a not very busy part of Edinburgh (off the Pleasance).

There are plenty of spaces round the corner and even though I’ve parked incorrectly in a three-bay area, two other cars are there when I return.

OK, I admit it, there’s just the slightest hint of ‘give a guy a break’ in all this. A helpful little note saying we’ll let you off this once – but don’t do it again – would have been nice. (Yes, I must be naïve!)

Sometimes, Edinburgh doesn’t seem a friendly place. As for parking in Edinburgh, the motorist, visitor or resident alike, is simply treated as a cash-cow. 

…And don’t drive in bus lanes!

Parking your vehicle in the centre of Edinburgh isn’t the only time you risk a fine. Bus lanes have been identified as another local authority scheme for penalising motorists and raising revenues.

Statistically speaking, Scotland’s councils do rather well from unwary (or possibly gambling) drivers who stray into bus lanes. Glasgow spectacularly outdid the Scottish capital though, issuing 108,000 fines for bus lane infringements in 2017. They raked in more than £6.5 million.

According to research by, this was the lion’s share of Scotland’s £7,633,280 bus lane fine total. (More than London, England’s!)

So, if you think Edinburgh has a few bus lane traps - wait till you drive in Glasgow! has even issued a guide to spotting bus lanes - well worth a look, especially if you visiting from outside the UK, as the information applies both here and ‘down south’ (aka England).

Look for solid white lines, blue information notices - and especially observe the hours in which the lanes are buses only. Small wonder motorists get confused and impatient.

Pleasant rural motoring elsewhere in Scotland

So, bear it in mind if you are visiting Edinburgh city by car. Better still, unless you are visiting by public transport, consider cutting a day from your city itinerary and add it on to a rural area where you won’t find parking so potentially expensive. What about Moray, for example?

The local authority made over £16,000 in fines in the same period as Edinburgh coined it with its £6.6 million. Imagine that: Edinburgh gets more in a single day by fining motorists than Moray does in a year!

Actually, having said that the totally broke Moray Council recently (2018) introduced new parking charge machines which seem to have been designed by the scientists who built the Hadron Collider. Complicated? It took us ten minutes just to get the ticket out. That’s the last time I’ll be shopping in downtown Elgin.

And while the Edinburgh amount represent £11.50 per head of population, the Moray total amounts to 15p on the same basis. (Or at least it did until they started installing ticket machines!) Or what about spending more time in Highland with a larger area but only £26,000 raised?

Then there is Galloway. Over in the south-west, towns like Wigtown, Kirkcudbright and Castle Douglas, for example, let you park for free – so you can browse around the shops and attractions in a relaxed way. There’s more information on Galloway touring here.

And down in Northumberland (and how I like the ‘down’) they let you park these days for free in Berwick-upon-Tweed as well as Alnwick and, I assume, other places in that fine old English county. (Though you need one of those cardboard clock-thingies, available in local shops.)

So, if you are a visitor with a car in Scotland, enjoy the network of rural roads and still pleasant motoring you will find in many parts of the country. From a driving point of view – give the capital a miss.

And finally: it’s an odd thought that if only one visitor spends just one day less in Edinburgh as a result of reading this, then it probably more than cancels the £30 I contributed to the city’s coffers as punishment for leaving the wheels some inches away from where they should have been!