Richard Leonard: Booting PFI out of NHS should be priority

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said he wants to see private finance "booted out" of the NHS as a priority.

Mr Leonard said running health services for profit was an "anathema" and should be ended "as quickly as possible".

He was speaking after announcing  Scottish Labour will carry out an urgent review of who is running public services and how public projects and infrastructure are funded in the wake of the collapse of outsourcing giant Carillion.

It was also revealed the party will lodge proposals for legislation to end hospital car parking charges at the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Leonard said that while car parking charges were an important issue "we need to address what lies behind that and that is the whole public private project".

In a speech in Dundee, he said: "I say this in all candour, some of the big PFI hospital projects were built when Labour was last in power in Scotland.

"And I think we need to start by looking first of all at those PFI projects which frankly are coming towards the end of their 25 year or in some cases 30 year lifespan and look at how we can end those with more immediate effect.

"Secondly my priority is to look at the operation of PFI contracts in the NHS as a priority. I think the exercise or the profit motive in the National Health Service is an anathema and I want to see that ended as quickly as possible."

He added: "Now I'm not going to  undertake to buy out to the full value all of those deals because there are too many of them, the value is too great and it would stop us doing all the other things that we want to do. 

"It was Nye Bevan who said that the religion of socialism is the language of priorities and I would invoke Nye Bevan to say one of the areas where I would want to see as a priority PFI booted out is in the national health service.

"And  if that leads to the withdrawal of car parking fees then I'm quite happy with that as a consequence.

"We should be moving towards providing direct employment  for people and the removal of the profit motive from those contracts right across the whole of the estate of the National Health Service."

Jenny Marra, MSP for North East Scotland, said the party was preparing a private members' bill to lodge at the Scottish Parliament  to propose the lifting of car parking charges at the city's Ninewells Hospital.

She said: "The car park at Ninewells has made over £5 million in profit over the last 20 years and we see that as a tax on  health for Dundonians and for people across Tayside."