The Scottish Government told NHS Lothian in December it would no longer fund a replacement for the Capital’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion despite signing up to the project in 2018.
But last week the Lib Dems claimed they had shifted the government’s position as a result of their negotiations with the SNP over the Holyrood budget. When pressed on the issue, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said NHS Lothian had been asked to review its eye services – the same form of words which had been used since the original announcement – prompting other opposition parties to conclude there had been no change of stance.
Mr Briggs said the exchanges last week had just caused confusion. He said: “This has given the SNP the long grass they were looking for to kick this into, to get through an election.
"We need to have a full commitment to fund a new hospital in the SNP manifesto – if not, people should realise this service will be lost and we will not have a replacement hospital.”
There have been cross-party calls for the government to rethink its plans, which include dispersing eyecare services across the region.
Mr Briggs said NHS Lothian had told him it planned to put forward its own suggestions by mid-April, which will be in the middle of the election campaign. He said he hoped the health board would make its proposals public and reaffirm that its preferred option was a new hospital.
"We need absolute clarity on a new hospital before people vote,” he said.
“What we want is a commitment for a new-build hospital. I think that's where all the parties, including the Lib Dems, seem to be sitting. The ball is now in the SNP’s court for that to be in black and white in their manifesto.
"The election is an opportunity for the people of Edinburgh, Lothian and the East of Scotland to demand a new hospital and for the SNP to deliver that or not, and to face the consequences at the ballot box if they are not going to offer that.”