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When your car can be clamped or towed away

This advice applies to Scotland

Summary of the rules

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

In exceptional cases, the police, the local council or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) can clamp or get cars towed away on private land.

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

The police or the local council can remove a car that is breaching a parking restriction, is blocking the road or has broken down.

Fines enforcement officers can organise for a car to be seized if you haven't paid a number of fines.

Another organisation that can clamp or tow cars is the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). DVSA enforcement officers can do this when a car is a danger to road users. This often applies to commercial vehicles such as lorries if:

  • they're not roadworthy
  • they're overloaded
  • the driver has been driving for too many hours
  • the driver hasn't paid a fine that DVSA has issued to them.

Clamping on private land

If your car is clamped, don't try to remove a wheel clamp yourself. You could be taken to court for damaging the clamp and prosecuted for theft if you keep it.

You should contact the number you have and ask for a release.

If you think you've 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 council continues to clamp your car and charges a fee to release it. You'll still need to pay the penalty notice.

Check who the clampers are. It's illegal for a private company to clamp your car on private land in Scotland. If a private company tries to do this, you should call the police.

In exceptional cases, the police, the local council or the DVLA can instruct a private company to clamp your car, but only with good reason. Your car might be clamped or removed from private land to avoid blocking the road, ensure road safety or make sure you've paid your insurance and tax.

Private landowners can issue parking fines if cars are parked illegally, but they can't legally clamp cars. Read more about parking tickets on private land.

Drivers without insurance and tax

It's against the law to own and use a car without insurance or tax, unless the registered owner of the car officially declares that the car is permanently off the road and not being driven. To do this, the owner must fill out a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) and send it to the DVLA.

Under what's called 'continuous insurance enforcement', the DVLA works with the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) to identify uninsured drivers.

The DVLA reminds drivers to get insurance and tax. If they don't, the DVLA can give them a £100 fixed penalty notice and clamp their car. Or the DVLA can take drivers to court, with a maximum fine of £1,000.

The police and local council can also clamp or get cars towed away if their owners haven't paid tax or insurance.

When local councils or the police can clamp and remove cars

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

Local councils also have powers to clamp cars and get them towed away. Councils might do this if a driver doesn't have car tax or insurance. If a car is causing a hazard, perhaps because it has been abandoned, councils will remove it rather than clamp it.

Holders of blue badges for disabled drivers or passengers shouldn't be clamped.

What to do if your car has been towed away

If your car has been towed away, you'll have to pay an additional fee to recover the car as well as the penalty.

If you think your car shouldn't have been towed away, you'll have to pay the recovery fee to recover the car anyway, but you can then apply to have the fee refunded.

If the courts have towed your car away

To apply to get the recovery fee back, you'll have to:

  • go to court to contest the penalty by pleading not guilty to the charge
  • ask for a refund of the fee.

If the council has towed your car away

To apply to get the recovery fee back, you'll have to make representations to the local council to cancel the penalty charge and refund the fee.

If this doesn't work, you can appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber:

Parking and Bus Lane Appeals
General Regulatory Chamber
George House
126 George Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4HH

Tel: 0300 303 5760
Email: pbla@scotcourtstribunals.gov.uk
Website: generalregulatorychamber.scot

Next steps

If you need more help, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB)

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

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