Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion: Tories warn 'vague' SNP pledge could lead to U-turn

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has claimed the SNP's "vague" promises on the future of eyecare services in Edinburgh could pave the way for a post-election U-turn.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 7:00 am

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week a re-elected SNP government would "renew" Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion and, when pressed, she said the government would fund a new replacement eye hospital - if that is what NHS Lothian proposes.

Opposition politicians have since urged the health board to resubmit its original plans for a new hospital at Little France to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion which was deemed unfit for purpose in 2014.

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The Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion is unfit for purpose Pic: Greg Macvean

Mr Briggs said: “The SNP sadly have form when it comes to making pre-election pledges to Edinburgh voters only to do the polar opposite after an election."

He said at the last Holyrood elections in 2016 the SNP had given assurances about Edinburgh's cleft palate surgery unit, but once the election was over the service was centralised in Glasgow with Edinburgh losing a world-renowned surgery team."

"I'm concerned this is a similar situation where they are pledging lots to voters before an election but it's vague enough that afterwards they could do a full U-turn and blame the health board and circumstances for doing what they had originally planned."

Ministers told NHS Lothian in December they would not fund a new hospital "now or in the foreseeable future" despite approving the project in principle in 2018.

Mr Briggs called on Ms Sturgeon to make an unequivocal pledge to build a replacement hospital.

He said: "We need to make sure there is no wriggle room for ministers and the language ministers have been using - like renew- has to change. People expect and want the full commitment to a new eye hospital.

"Does the health board really know what the SNP wants them to do or what it is offering? I think there's growing concern this is simply to get through an election, it's not looking at the long-term eyecare needs of the region.

"What we need is a proper long-term investment to improve and sustain these services, to tackle waiting times and to keep a well-respected and state of the art team of surgeons."

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