A former Dundee MP has revealed he warned Tayside health chiefs 20 years ago that a controversial parking deal would come back to haunt them.
John McAllion, who was the Labour member of parliament for Dundee East at the time, said he bitterly regretted the contract signed in 1998 which tied the NHS into a 30-year deal with Indigo Parking, known at the time as Vinci Parking.
The announcement provoked anger from patients, hospital staff, politicians, trade unions and community groups.
Because it was built under a private finance initiative (PFI), the Ninewells car park is one of only three at Scottish hospitals where staff, patients and visitors have to pay.
Mr McAllion was a member of the Labour/Liberal Democrats coalition government which was in talks with what was then the Tayside University Hospital Trust and the parking company in 1998.
He said: “At the time, I argued against signing this contract and against imposing parking charges at Ninewells Hospital.
“I warned them that they would live to regret this decision and I urged them not to sign this contract.
“I was bitterly disappointed when it went ahead and I have been proven to be right.”
Labour councillor Richard McCready said: “I was working for Mr McAllion at the time and Labour were very much against the signing of this contract.
“But this was never meant to be a political issue. People in Dundee are paying taxes to pay for free car parking at hospitals up and down the country but not getting the benefit of free car parking themselves when they visit their local hospital –that strikes me as just unfair.
“I have previously supported moves in the Scottish Parliament to remove the car parking charges.
“This should be about doing what is right now – it should not be about trying to blame people for decisions they did not make.
“I want Dundee to speak with one voice and point out that it is not fair that we are paying for free car parking at other hospitals – we just don’t enjoy the benefit ourselves.’
The 30-year contract between NHS Tayside and parking company Indigo would cost millions of pounds to terminate.
However, the Scottish Government has refused to disclose exactly how much.
The Scottish Government said: “Disclosing information about how much the Scottish Government is willing to pay to buy-out the Ninewells car parking contract would compromise any commercial negotiation on this subject.”
Dundee East MSP and former health secretary Shona Robison said: “In December 2008, the SNP Scottish Government scrapped parking charges at all NHS-owned hospital car parks – a move which has saved patients, visitors and staff more than £32 million.
“Thanks to the long-term PFI contracts that were signed by the then Labour/Liberal Democrats coalition Scottish Government, charges remain in place at three hospitals.
“Buying out the contract earlier would cost many millions of pounds of public money, which could impact on patient care.”
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Bowman said: “It’s totally unfair that those visiting Ninewells have to pay for parking when it is free at almost every other hospital in Scotland. Any increase in charges is an insult.”
You can support the Tele campaign by signing our petition which asks Indigo Infra Dundee Ltd to keep its charges at existing levels until at least November next year. We will submit the results of our petition to Indigo by the end of this month – before the planned fees change.