Removal, storage and disposal of vehicles regulations: analysis of consultation responses

Analysis of written responses to our consultation on the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles regulations.

1. Background And Context

1.1. This report presents the findings of an analysis of responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations.

1.2. The purpose of the consultation was to seek views on proposed changes to the Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges etc.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2005 and the Police (Retention and Disposal of Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Regulations 2005. The proposed changes are intended to:

"put in place revised charges that would apply when the police or local authorities invoke their legislative powers to remove, store or dispose of vehicles".


1.3. Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978 give police the power to remove, store and dispose of vehicles in a number of scenarios, including where these are: stolen; causing an obstruction; illegally parked; untaxed or being driven without insurance; abandoned; or otherwise appear to be at the end of their life.

1.4. Removals can also be ordered where, for example, a vehicle is at risk of becoming a focus for crime, or a threat to the environment. Police may also remove vehicles to ensure public safety at large events (e.g. demonstrations, football matches etc.).

1.5. Vehicles may also be seized in relation to ongoing police investigations or for forensic examination, including where they may have been involved in a serious accident, or where the driver has been taken into police custody.

1.6. The police have separate powers under sections 126 and 127 of the Antisocial Behaviour etc. (Scotland) Act 2004 ("the 2004 Act") to seize vehicles where these are being used as part of a pattern of anti-social behaviour.

1.7. Vehicles can also be forfeited on the basis of a court order granted as a result of Section 21 of the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.

1.8. Section 165A of the Road Traffic Act (which is reserved) allows police to seize and retain vehicles where a driver has no licence or insurance.

1.9. In 2016, there were 24,327 recoveries carried out in Scotland, as set out below.

Table 1. Recoveries carried out in Scotland 2016

Legislation Number of annual recoveries (JanuaryDecember 2016)
The Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges etc.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (1984 Act) 16,004
The Police (Retention and Disposal of Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (2004 Act) 109
The Road Traffic Act 1988 (Retention and Disposal of Seized Motor Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (section 165A of the 1988 Act) 8,214

1.10. At present, there are three separate statutory charges for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles, two of which are set by the Scottish Government (with the third reserved to the UK Parliament).

1.11. The Removal, Storage and Disposal of Vehicles (Prescribed Sums and Charges etc.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2005 sets the charge for removal at £150; the charge for storage at £20 per day; and the charge for disposal at £150.

1.12. The Police (Retention and Disposal of Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (relating to vehicles being used for anti-social behaviour) sets the fee for removal at £105; and the fee for storage at £12 per day.

1.13. Vehicles seized under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (reserved) are subject to a charging matrix (which applies in such cases in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales).

1.14. Although the power to remove, store and dispose of a vehicle rest with Police Scotland and local authorities, these are generally delivered through a Managing Agent and a network of contractors (vehicle recovery operators, or VROs) on the basis of an agreed Vehicle Recovery Scheme (VRS). There are currently some circumstances in which an owner can arrange for the recovery of their vehicle using their own agent, and the consultation does not seek to change this.

1.15. The Scottish Government charges were set out in 2005, and the Government is now of the view that these need to be revised to take account of increased costs and inflation. It is also considered that the current flat rate system (described above) does not cover the range of potential scenarios for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles.

1.16. Proposals were brought forward in 2011 to make such changes, but these were subsequently withdrawn. The current consultation sought views of new proposals.

The consultation

1.17. The consultation on these proposals ran from 14th May 2018 until 6th August 2018.

1.18. A consultation document[2] was issued, setting out that the Scottish Government's preferred option was for a matrix system, similar to that in use in England and Wales since 2008. The matrix system is already in use in Scotland in limited circumstances, as described at paras 1.8 and 1.13 above.

1.19. The consultation document also noted that the adoption of a matrix system in Scotland would harmonise all of the regulations and bring consistency for business owners operating across the UK. It suggested that such an approach would provide a more "case sensitive" approach to charging, and make removal operations viable without being punitive, or becoming an income generator for Police Scotland. It also suggested that the increased charges would help to ensure that recovery work was economic for VROs, thus maintaining a pool of contractors for Police Scotland.

1.20. The basis of the Scottish Government's preferred matrix system was set out at Annex E of the consultation document (and, for reference, is reproduced at Annex 4 of this report). It provides a table of proposed charges, depending on the position and condition of the vehicle, and its weight.

1.21. The consultation document expressly excluded consideration of the operation of powers by Police Scotland in ordering the removal of vehicles. It also expressly excluded consideration of the operation of the VRS and associated contracts. (As will be noted later, a number of respondents made comments about these matters, but these detailed comments have not been included in this report. They are, however, available separately to the Scottish Government.)

1.22. The consultation document explored views of:

  • The preferred approach to charging (Qs1-2).
  • Whether any circumstances should attract a zero charge for removal (Q3).
  • The matrix approach (categories, scenarios and definitions) (Qs 4-5).
  • Alternative bases for charging (Q6).
  • How to manage scenarios which do not fit a proposed matrix category (Q7).
  • Factors for consideration in setting the charges (Q8).
  • Whether there may be unintended consequences of the proposed scheme (Q9).
  • How to manage inflation and cost increases (Q10).
  • Experiences from the operation of a matrix-based scheme in England and Wales (Q11).

1.23. Four of the questions (3, 4, 5 and 11) asked respondents to express their agreement or disagreement with an aspect of the proposals. Three questions (1, 7 and 10) asked respondents to express a preference between two options (although Q1 did not provide a tick box in the online Citizen Space consultation portal). All bar one of the questions (Q3) provided an opportunity in Citizen Space for respondents to give detailed qualitative information. A full list of the questions is provided at Annex 1.

1.24. Responses could be submitted using the Citizen Space consultation portal, or via email. A response form was provided, on which respondents could record their answers, and they were also asked to complete a Respondent Information Form (RIF) giving their details.

Submissions and respondents

1.25. A total of 37 responses were received, although 3 were subsequently withdrawn at the request of the respondents. A total of 34 responses were included in this analysis.

1.26. The types of respondent are set out in Table 2 (below). A full list of respondents is provided at Annex 2.

Table 2. Respondents by category

Category No. %[3]
Individual 11 32
Vehicle Recovery Operator 8 24
Insurance company 5 15
Local Authority 3 9
Vehicle recovery professional or trade body 3 9
Road haulage professional or trade body 2 6
Insurance professional or trade body 1 3
Police 1 3

1.27. As is clear from the table, the largest number of responses received was from individuals, with almost a third (32%) from this group. Just under a quarter (24%) were from VROs and just under 1 in 7 (15%) from insurance companies. Responses were also received from local authorities (9%); vehicle recovery professional or trade bodies (9%); road haulage professional or trade bodies (6%); an insurance professional / trade body (3%); and the police (3%).

1.28. Almost all of the respondents addressed the specific questions and followed the format of the response form, although not all addressed every question[4]. Seven respondents requested that their responses should be treated as confidential.

Analysis of the data and presentation of the information

1.29. The analysis of the data involved a number of stages, which were:

  • Design of an Excel spreadsheet to include the data for each question.
  • Quantitative analysis (where appropriate).
  • Preparation of a series of Word documents for the qualitative material, containing all responses to each question.
  • Identification of the key themes and sub-themes for each question.
  • Summary of the findings and preparation of this report.

1.30. The presentation of the information involves some quantitative material, although most of the detail is qualitative. The quantitative information includes:

  • The number of respondents overall, and the number / proportions of different types of respondents (Table 2 above).
  • The proportion of respondents who answered each question.
  • The views expressed at the "yes/no" or closed questions.

1.31. In the case of Question 1, although a tick box was not provided, most respondents expressed a clear "yes" or "no" view, and this information has also been provided quantitatively, although the way in which it was derived (requiring some judgement) should be borne in mind.

1.32. The additional comments made at each question (e.g. where respondents were asked to give reasons for their answer, or to provide more general views) also provided a large amount of additional qualitative detail. From this, it was possible to identify the balance of views, common themes and patterns.

1.33. The qualitative material is presented using qualitative terms (e.g. "a small number"; "a few"; "several"; "many"; "most" etc.) to describe the overall themes and the range and depth of views provided.

1.34. It would be inappropriate to attempt to quantify this qualitative material further, for a number of reasons, including that:

  • Some points were made at more than one question, and these have been included at the most relevant question.
  • Some points relating to a particular question were made at another question instead (e.g. some points addressing Question 1 were actually made at Question 2). These have been included with the question to which they most closely relate.
  • Some responses represented the views of a number of individuals or organisations.
  • The focus of the qualitative analysis was on the range and nature of views, rather than a "weighing" of responses.
  • The respondents were self-selecting. As such, it is not possible to generalise from the findings.

1.35. It should also be noted that the report cannot provide a compendium of the consultation material, nor can it present every individual point made, as there was a large volume of detailed information. It does, however, summarise the themes and issues raised, even where these involved small numbers of respondents. The full text of the responses can be viewed on the Scottish Government website[5].

1.36. The wording used to present the qualitative material sometimes follows the wording of a response closely, in order that the message is represented accurately (although it is not presented as a full "quote"). Direct quotations of detailed individual responses are not used in the report, as this might imply that the views of one respondent carried more weight than another.

1.37. The patterns of overall views by type of respondent have also been identified as far as possible, but it should be borne in mind that some of the categories contained very few respondents. This makes it difficult to generalise from these findings, in terms of the views of particular types of respondent. Additionally, for that reason, the report does not list the types of respondent identifying each individual theme.

1.38. The remainder of the report presents the findings of the consultation analysis, as follows.

  • Section 2: The overall approach (Qs 1-3).
  • Section 3: The matrix (Qs 4-5).
  • Section 4: Charging issues (Qs 6-8).
  • Section 4: Other factors for consideration (Qs 9-11).



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