FURIOUS councillors have lashed out after being ticketed for flouting the rules at their own free car park – months after approving measures to remove free parking in communities across the Highlands.
Staff and elected members are all entitled to park for free at Highland Council’s HQ in Glenurquhart Road, subject to availability of spaces.
However it is understood that at least six members have recently had penalty tickets slapped on their vehicles for allegedly not parking in designated spaces.
Culloden councillor Glynis Campbell-Sinclair said: "I fell foul of the traffic wardens at headquarters last week, along with others including Councillors Janet Campbell (Inverness Central) and Karl Rosie (Thurso).
"There wasn’t a single space in the HQ car park or Eden Court so I parked on the grass, but still got a ticket.
"It is a perfect disgrace. We are requested to attend meetings at HQ, and there aren’t enough parking spaces. We have been told to park on the roads in the nearby housing estate, Maxwell Drive, Smith Avenue, Bruce Gardens etc, but that is not practical, and also the residents would rightly complain."
She added: "There has to be a rethink on how the parking at HQ is going to be managed. It’s a joke."
Wester Ross councillor Derek MacLeod plans to fight his ticjet which, he said, he was treating "with contempt."
He said: "Since there were no spaces available I ran on to the grass opposite the section reserved for councillors. Apparently there were five others collared by this over-zealous parking attendant that afternoon."
He added: "I am not going to walk along Glenurquhart Road when I am entitled to park outside the HQ. There is a shortage of parking spaces, and I think on occasions people park there who are not entitled to be there."
The parking row came after councillors voted 47-19 to approve this year’s council budget, which includes moves to abolish traditionally free parking in communities across the Highlands.
Cllr MacLeod was among the councillors who voted in February to support the move though Cllr Campbell-Sinclair had voted as part of the SNP group in favour of deferring the budget to allow more time for it to be considered.
If they accept their guilt the offending councillors will have to stump up £60 – reduced to £30 if they pay within 14 days.
Richie Paxton, a community councillor who has a guest house on Huntly Street in Inverness, had little sympathy for the effected members.
"If I parked on the grass or a pavement then I would get done," he said. "Why should councillors be exempt?
"If the council is so cash-strapped, why aren’t councillors paying full whack like everyone else? They get well paid and if they had to pay then it would bring in quite a few thousand per month."
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "Fixed penalty notices are issued regularly at our headquarters car park for parking outwith the allocated bays.
"Any person receiving such a ticket has the right to appeal against it. Our system cannot tell who is booked as it’s the car that receives the ticket."