By Karrie Gillett
INCONSIDERATE drivers who park in disabled spaces are being warned they could be hit with a fine.
Jackie Baillie MSP is waging war on thoughtless motorists who ignore the rules and park up in reserved bays.
Today, the Labour MSP officially introduced a Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament to tackle the abuse of disabled parking bays across the country.
And the move has been welcomed by disability charities who said taking up a reserved spot makes daily tasks impossible for disabled shoppers.
A petition in favour of the Disabled Persons’ Parking Places (Scotland) Bill has already attracted more than 3,000 signatures.
Supporters called on drivers who persistently flout parking restrictions – which are only advisory at present – to think about the impact their ignorant behaviour has on the disabled and their carers.
Eleanor Hind is a parent-carer for her wheelchair-bound 50-year-old daughter Helen who has cerebral palsy and suffers from severe epilepsy
The retired social worker said that she has constantly been fighting against people parking in a designated disabled bay right outside her home in Glasgow’s Pollokshields area for 25 years.
She said: “It’s a terrible thing to come home and find that someone has plonked themselves right in your space.
“I make sure my daughter lives an extremely active life despite her disability and that space is essential for making trips out of the house possible.
“There was once a man parked there from 9.15am until five that afternoon and we couldn’t take her out at all.
“I was absolutely outraged to later find out that he was a doctor. I mean, anyone with any decency wouldn’t go into a parking space.”
Mrs Hind, 74, is a member of the campaign organisation Transport Working Group and has been working with Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie for three years.
She said: “We really need a change in the law because at the minute if you decide not to use someone’s disabled parking space it is looked on as a courtesy.
“When there is someone there in Helen’s space, there is actually nothing I can do about it. All I can do is scream and shout and believe me sometimes I do because I just get so frustrated but even then I have had people who just shout right back at me.
“It boils down to people just not wanting to walk very far which is actually really, really sad because I wish I didn’t have the reason to need that space.
“They should take a day working with someone who needs the space and then they will find out why they shouldn’t be there.
“I always say, if you want that space so much then imagine having the disability too.”
Mrs Hind’s words were echoed by Ms Baillie who urged the Scottish Government to support the Bill which would benefit the 223,995 registered Blue Badge holders in Scotland.
When passed, the Bill will make all disabled parking bays under the control of local authorities legally enforceable – which would result in a £30 fine if abused.
Speaking outside Holyrood, Ms Baillie described how the action all came about after one of her constituents was facing a daily parking nightmare when his neighbour kept using his disabled space.
She said: “It was after trying everything from the police to the local paper that I realised the law needed to be changed and I am very pleased to be introducing this bill.
“I think people park in disabled spaces without really thinking about the consequences. It’s maybe raining, they’re maybe just popping into the shops for two minutes and thinking well, where’s the harm?
“Well, the harm is that a disabled person is prevented from using those facilities and they don’t have the option of parking elsewhere so access is critically important.”
Currently, 85% of disabled bays are advisory, which means others can park in them without any punishment. The proposed Bill would introduce a fine of £30 which would double to £60 if not paid within two weeks.
And the Bill received widespread support from leading disability charities as well as local authority group Cosla.
Alan Dickson, Chief Executive of Scottish disability organisation Capability warned inconsiderate drivers that their days were numbered.
He said: “The thoughtless act of a motorist parking in a reserved bay can make it impossible for a disabled shopper to undertake an activity as simple as buying groceries.
“We welcome Jackie Baillie’s Bill which will make every day life a bit easier for disabled people.”