Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Lib Dems claim they have shifted Scottish Government position
Liberal Democrats have claimed they successfully used budget negotiations to shift the Scottish Government's position on the future of eyecare services in Lothian.
Health spokesman and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said a government commitment to "protect specialised eye services for the city and the wider region" paved the way for a reversal of its decision not to fund a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.
The budget – passed by the Scottish Parliament last night after the SNP made deals with the Greens and Lib Dems – does not include any specific funding allocation for a new eye hospital for Edinburgh.
But Mr Cole-Hamilton said the Lib Dems had made a rethink on the issue a red line in their talks with ministers. He said the party had been clear that meant a new hospital and the SNP understood that.
In the budget debate, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined the concessions she had made to the Greens and Lib Dems in return for their support.
She said: "In light of calls for a replacement for the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh we have asked NHS Lothian to carry out a review of its eyecare services and to reconsider how they should be delivered. I can commit to working with the board to implement its recommendations and protect specialised eye services for the city and the wider region."
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack intervened to point out the issue was the government's withdrawal of £45m funding for a replacement hospital. She asked: "Is the Scottish Government making a commitment to reinstate capital funding for a new Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh?"
Ms Forbes repeated that NHS Lothian were carrying out a review. "I have committed in terms of a funding perspective to protect specialised eye services and I'm not going to preempt the outcome of that review and the recommendations."
Also speaking in the debate, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “We have tried to make a difference in this budget – of course it’s not perfect, but we’re pleased and proud we have got some steps in the right direction on the Eye Pavilion and we will be watching closely on that.”