Blue Badge scheme is driving some motorists up the wall

Blue Badges are a vital lifeline for thousands of elderly and disabled drivers, but the Scottish Government says it must crack down on those that misuse the system
Blue Badges are a vital lifeline for thousands of elderly and disabled drivers, but the Scottish Government says it must crack down on those that misuse the system

They’re the small badges that make a huge difference to thousands of elderly and disabled residents across the Falkirk district.

Blue Badges are issued to drivers or passengers with severe mobility problems and allows them easier on-street parking, with more than 245,000 issued in Scotland.

Blue Badge misuse is socially unacceptable as it prevents legitimate badge holders from across Scotland accessing the on-street parking concessions to which they are entitled

Transport minister Derek McKay

There are 8500 badges in operation across the Falkirk Council area, with around 2800 issued each year.

The UK-wide scheme is managed by local authorities north of the border on behalf of Transport Scotland.

But some users feel the application process has become overly complex following changes introduced by the Scottish Government.

One Falkirk Herald reader, who asked not to be named, described filling in the form for her 90-year-old father as “horrendous” and wondered how other elderly applicants with no relatives could manage.

Others described baffling paper work and queried why retired applicants had to pay £20 for renewing their Blue Badges.

However, The Falkirk Herald can reveal that talks are underway to widen the Blue Badge scheme which could increase the numbers eligible for one.

Transport Scotland insist recent reforms to the application process were introduced to ensure Blue Badges were awarded to those that need them the most.

From March this year, anyone caught misusing a Blue Badge is liable for a £1000 fine from their local authority.

Tough new measures were introduced in response to what the Scottish Government described as a growing problem.

SNP ministers cited research that 83 per cent of legitimate badge holders had encountered misuse.

The same survey also found 76 per cent of blue badge holders would go out less often if they were without their badge.

Speaking earlier this year, Transport Minister Derek McKay said: “Blue badge misuse is socially unacceptable as it prevents legitimate badge holders from across Scotland accessing the on-street parking concessions to which they are entitled.”

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “Decisions about an individual applicant’s eligibility for a blue badge are made by local authorities, with the Scottish Government providing the overarching legislative and policy framework for the scheme.”

“Recent reforms to the scheme mean the criteria focuses on an applicant’s mobility, helping support local authorities to ensure blue badges are awarded to those most in need.

“However, Transport Scotland has recently established a working group which is considering whether the Blue Badge Scheme should be extended.

“The group is studying evidence on potentially extending the eligibility criteria for the blue badge scheme to include people, who as a result of a ‘diagnosed mental disorder’, have little or no awareness of danger from traffic.”

A Falkirk Council spokeswoman said: “Blue Badge holders are permitted to park in areas normally subject to restrictions to assist them accessing healthcare and shops.”