This paper presents two discretisation schemes for the parallel gradient operator used in scrape-off layer plasma turbulence simulations. First, a simple model describing the propagation of electrostatic shear-Alfven waves, and retaining the key elements of the parallel dynamics, is used to test the accuracy of the different schemes against analytical predictions. The most promising scheme is then tested in simulations of limited scrape-off layer turbulence with the flux-driven 3D fluid code GBS (Ricci et al., 2012): the new approach is successfully benchmarked against the original parallel gradient discretisation implemented in GBS. Finally, GBS simulations using a radially varying safety profile, which were inapplicable with the original scheme are carried out for the first time: the well-known stabilisation of resistive ballooning modes at negative magnetic shear is recovered. The main conclusion of this paper is that a simple approach to the parallel gradient, namely centred finite differences in the poloidal and toroidal direction, is able to simulate scrape-off layer turbulence provided that a higher resolution and higher convergence order are used.