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When your car can be clamped or towed away

It is illegal for a private company to wheel-clamp a car on private land in Scotland, but there is no explicit ban in Scotland on illegally parked cars being towed away from private land.

In exceptional cases, the police, the local authority or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – DVLA - can clamp or get cars towed away on private land. They can also do this on roads or public land.

For example, the police or the local authority can remove a car that is contravening a parking restriction, is blocking the road or has broken down.

The DVLA can clamp or remove cars where road tax or car insurance has not been paid. They can do this unless the car is on your property.

Another organisation that can clamp or tow cars is The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency – VOSA. VOSA enforcement officers can do this when a car is a danger to road users. This often applies to commercial cars such as lorries where they are not roadworthy, they are overloaded, the driver has been driving for too many hours or has not paid a financial fine that VOSA has issued to them.

Clamping on private land

Top tips

If your car is clamped:

  • keep calm and don’t lose your temper – it won’t do you any favours
  • don’t attempt to remove a wheel clamp yourself – you could be taken to court for damaging the clamp and prosecuted for theft if you keep it
  • contact the number you have and ask for a release
  • if you think you have been clamped unfairly, take pictures as evidence to dispute this later. For example if you turn up before the clamping has finished and the local authority continue to clamp your car and charge a fee for release. You will still need to pay the penalty notice.

Check who the clampers are – it is illegal for a private company to clamp your car on private land in Scotland so if they try to do so you should call the police.

If you are clamped on private land by someone claiming to be from a private company, this is illegal. In exceptional cases, the police, the local authority or the DVLA can do this, and then only with good reason in certain circumstances. Your car may be clamped or removed from private land to avoid a blockage to the road, to ensure road safety or to make sure drivers have paid their insurance and tax.

Private land owners can issue parking fines if cars have parked illegally.

Drivers without insurance and tax

It is against the law to own a car without insurance or tax, unless the registered keeper of the car officially declares that the car is permanently off road and not being driven, by filling out a Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN and sending it to the DVLA.

Under what is known as 'continuous insurance enforcement' the DVLA work with the MIB - Motor Insurance Bureau to identify drivers who are uninsured.

After reminding drivers to get insurance or tax, those who don't act are issued with a £100 fixed penalty notice by the DVLA and can be clamped, or can be taken to court with a maximum fine of £1000.

Drivers who are clamped who don’t act to pay within 24 hours will have the car removed to a pound with a daily charge. If there is no collection after five weeks, the car can be crushed or sold at auction.

The police and local authority can also clamp or get cars towed away that haven’t paid tax or insurance.

When local authorities or the police can clamp and remove cars

Although local authorities have powers to clamp cars and get them towed away, they rarely use these powers. They may do so if a driver has repeatedly not paid a fine, and does not have car tax or insurance either. If a car is causing a hazard, perhaps because it has been abandoned, they will remove it rather than clamp.

The police have the power to tow away a vehicle if it is contravening a parking restriction, is causing an obstruction or has broken down.

Blue badge holders for disabled drivers or passengers should not be clamped.

What to do if your car is towed away

If your car has been towed away you will have to pay an additional fee to recover the car, as well as the penalty. If you believe that the car should not have been towed away, you will have to pay the recovery fee to recover the car anyway, but you can then apply to have the fee refunded.

To apply for a refund of the recovery fee, you will have to:

  • where the enforcement is through the courts, go to court to contest the penalty by pleading not guilty to the charge and request a refund of the fee; or
  • where the enforcement is by the local authority, make representations to the local authority to cancel the penalty charge and refund the fee. If this fails, you can appeal to the Scottish Parking Appeals Service.

The Scottish Parking Appeals Service can be contacted at:

10 Waterloo Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3EG
Tel: 0131 221 0409
Fax: 0131 229 7189

Next steps

If you need more help

Related Items

Parking tickets issued by the police
Parking tickets issued by the local authority
Parking tickets on private land
Blue badge scheme for disabled people and parking tickets

Other useful information

DVLA – the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency at: www.dft.gov.uk/dvla

MIB – the Motor Insurance Bureau at: www.mib.org.uk

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency – VOSA at:  www.dft.gov.uk/vosa

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