Young people are missing out on jobs due to a huge backlog in driving tests across Scotland. Growing numbers of learner drivers are unable to sit theory and practical tests until September at the earliest.
And those living in rural areas insist the crisis is seriously hindering their chances of finding work as they cannot rely on public transport.
Now a Scots MSP has raised the serious shortage of ‘gold dust’ driving test dates with the Scottish Government at Holyrood yesterday.
Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, urged Nicola Sturgeon to relax the two-metre physical distancing restrictions to speed up testing capacity.
Speaking at First Minister’s questions, the Scottish Conservative MSP said: “I am sure that you are aware of the significant backlog in people waiting to sit both their practical and theory driving tests.
“In my own constituency of Dumfries and West Galloway, where we have poor public transport it is imperative that people living in rural areas, particularly the young, obtain their driving licences as quickly as possible. To allow them to get to work.”
He warned: “There are genuine concerns for businesses this summer– particularly those in the hospitality and agricultural sector who are struggling to find employees, a situation that has already been highlighted by the local chamber of commerce.
“Having already been in contact with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, it has stated that capacity at most theory test sites in Scotland has been reduced by 50 per cent as a direct result of the Scottish Government’s two-metre physical distancing restrictions.
“Will the First Minister look to relax the rule in order that the DVSA can increase testing capacity and do what she can to ease the plight of many learner drivers who are frustrated by the long delays in sitting both their theory and practical driving tests?”
In her response, the First Minister confirmed she knew how important and frustrating it was for young people, not least the economic implications.
She said: “Yes, I agree it is very much a rites of passage for young people to obtain their driving licences and it is really important to get this back on track.
“It is a complex issue, but yes, this needs to be addressed quickly and we will look into it and try to increase capacity. I fully understand the importance of this.”
Kenny Bowie, President of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber said: “As hospitality across the region reopens it is vital that we have a workforce that can fill these roles, and when you have region as rural as ours, we cannot always rely on public transport, family or taxis to get staff to and from work.
“The need to drive is a necessity for many young people who want to work, and Dumfries and Galloway Chamber find it very concerning that many young people are unable to find work due to the backlog being experienced by those applying for their driving tests.
“We know there are vacancies there, waiting to be filled but we need to give young people every chance to get their feet on the employment ladder.”
The DVSA has previously stressed the pandemic has caused an “unprecedented challenge” after routine theory tests were suspended. They only resumed again in Scotland on 26 April.
Loveday Ryder, chief executive of DVSA, said: “We are aware that demand for theory tests throughout Scotland is currently high and we are doing all we can to offer more tests at our centres by increasing their opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible.
“The provision of additional testing sessions in all locations is dependent upon the availability of venues.
“We are continuing to work with the Scottish Government but as a result of its two metre physical distancing restrictions, we are unable to increase the number of desks used to take tests.”
He added: “I know that theory test availability is limited in Scotland before August and test appointments for 3 September onwards will be made available early July.
“I would urge candidates to check the theory test booking system regularly as it is a live system and any additional test slots are added as soon as they become available. Other candidates cancelling or rescheduling their test may also free up tests for others to book.
“I can assure you we will continue to monitor demand for theory tests and look at ways of increasing availability where we can, in line with the Scottish Government’s coronavirus guidance.”
The agency boss admitted that he fully understood learner drivers’ frustrations over the situation.
“I know the pandemic has been incredibly tough for everyone and I am extremely grateful to all learners for their continued patience at this difficult and challenging time,” added Mr Ryder.