Councils in Scotland made a £36.1m surplus on parking activities in 2014/15, according to the RAC Foundation, up 6% on the previous year.
But nearly half the country’s councils made a loss.
The RAC Foundation suggested that some of the profit could be used for road maintenance.
It analysed annual returns to the Scottish Government from 32 councils on income from parking activities – charges and penalty income from on-and off-street parking.
The councils had a combined income of £75.4m while the combined cost to them of running their parking activities was £39.3m. Seventeen showed a surplus and 13 showed a deficit, while two did not provide data.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These numbers reveal where the money is being made from parking, and where it is not. Some of the variance will simply be down to the size of towns and cities. But it will also reflect parking policies.
‘Some councils will actively be keeping the price of parking down to attract shoppers to high streets, which might still be feeling the after effects of the recession. Elsewhere charges might be used to manage demand for limited spaces.’
He added: ‘Where large surpluses are being generated there are undoubtedly long lists of worthy transport schemes waiting to be funded. High on that list will be road maintenance. Like the rest of the UK, Scottish roads are not immune to potholes.’
A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said its members ‘do not have large surpluses on parking accounts and charges are in place to manage demand or modal choice into town and cities across Scotland for a range of wider community benefits’.
He pointed out that COSLA members had previously opposed decriminalised parking and the removal of Police Scotland traffic wardens and said this had had placed an additional cost in terms of enforcement.
Three councils generated 92% of the total net surplus in Scotland. Edinburgh again had the biggest surplus (£17.4m), followed by Glasgow (£11.4m) and Aberdeen (£4.5m).
The RAC Foundation said parking income figures are not broken down into their constituent parts so it not possible to see exactly how much is derived from penalty charge notices issued by councils.