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When your car can be clamped or towed away

This advice applies to Scotland

Summary of the rules

It is illegal for a private company to wheel-clamp a car on private land in Scotland. 

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.

The police, the local authority or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency - DVLA can clamp and tow away cars or other vehicles parked illegally on roads or public land. The DVLA may act when it has the lawful authority to do so when a car is untaxed unless it is on your own property.

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.

Fines Enforcement Officers can organise for a car to be seized if you have not paid a number of fines.

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 vehicles 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

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 instruct 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 and use 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 Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) 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 £1,000.

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

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.

Local authorities also have powers to clamp cars and get them towed away. They may do so if the driver does not have car tax or insurance. If a car is causing a hazard, perhaps because it has been abandoned, they will remove it rather than clamp.

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 Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland.

The Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland 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

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

Other useful information

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

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

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

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