David Mundell is Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

Commuters could be caught by parking tax

I was pleased about a recent statement by Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam that the regressive workplace parking tax proposed by the SNP Government at Holyrood will not be introduced in our region.

The Conservative-led local authority realises only too well the negative impact such a charge could have on either small firms or on their individual employees, particularly in rural areas where business turnover and wages are historically lower.

It could also prove damaging in the public and third sector where employees, such as teachers, frequently park at their place of work.

Fortunately, the power to impose the levy, for the moment at least, will remain optional for councils and was introduced following a pact between the SNP and Green Party at Holyrood to secure a majority in an important budget vote.

Some employers may opt to cut back on spaces, which then leads to an increase in on-street parking. This, in turn, could put more pressure on our already fragile town centres with fewer spaces resulting in lower footfall for High Street shops and other businesses.

Whilst few can argue with sensible measures to protect the environment, such as the phased introduction of cleaner, more efficient, vehicles, for many people across the south of Scotland there is little or no public transport alternative for travelling to work.

With both Edinburgh and Glasgow councils actively looking at using the new parking tax powers, a significant number of my constituents in the Peebles area and Clydesdale, who commute to work in both cities, could be affected.

Scotland already has the highest income tax bands in the UK and the parking tax could potentially now leave hard-working people, many on low incomes, paying this unwanted levy.

I would urge anyone opposing this plan to support a Scottish Conservatives' online petition at www.conservatives.com/scotland/carparktax

Celebrating diversity

One of the great leaps forward in the last two decades, nationally and in many – but far from all – overseas countries, has been much wider awareness of the natural diversity of gender and sexuality.

That is why I've been pleased to support LGBT History Month, which involves organisations and individuals in putting on a range of arts, cultural and educational events across the country.

In my role as Scottish Secretary, I was delighted to host a reception in Edinburgh last Thursday to mark this special month and celebrate the work of Scottish campaigners, who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and wider rainbow community in Scotland.

Much progress has been made within a generation towards creating a more fair and equal society.

There is still more to do but LGBT History Month has been valuable reminder of many hard-won achievements.

Everyone should feel able to live their lives as they wish, in safety and confidence, without misguided social judgement and discrimination.