Edinburgh's new eye hospital: Humza Yousaf says 'no doubt' replacement for Eye Pavilion is needed

But First Minister fails to commit to a timetable for new eye hospital
First Minister Humza Yousaf says there is no doubt the new eye hospital needs to be built.First Minister Humza Yousaf says there is no doubt the new eye hospital needs to be built.
First Minister Humza Yousaf says there is no doubt the new eye hospital needs to be built.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said there is "no doubt" that Edinburgh needs a new eye hospital to replace the current Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion - but he failed to commit to any timetable for the project.

The issue was raised at First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament by Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs, who asked Mr Yousaf for a pledge that the new hospital would be built before the end of the current parliament in 2026.

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The latest timetable for the new eye hospital, to be built close to the Royal Infirmary at Little France, suggested it would not be completed until "late 2027". But after the Scottish Government's budget in December, health boards across the country were told there would be no capital funding for any new projects for at least the next two years, which almost certainly means no progress on the eye hospital during that time.

The current Eye Pavilion was declared not fit for purpose in 2014 and is now suspected of containing the dangerous crumbly concrete RAAC.

Mr Briggs said: "It is now over three years since SNP ministers cancelled the new Eye Pavilion replacement in Edinburgh, a decision he former First Minister agreed to U-turn on during the 2021 Holyrood election, pledging to build he new hospital during this parliament. Can I ask the First Minister if he will keep that pledge to patients in Edinburgh and the south-east of Scotland?"

Mr Yousaf replied: "Well, there is no doubt it does need built. We need to replace the current infrastructure that is there, so there is no doubting across any political party that that has to be done. But we are having to take forward capital spending projects in the face of high inflation, in terms of construction costs, but also a 10 per cent cut to our capital budget over the next five years - that is being imposed upon Scotland by the Conservatives.

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"So Miles Briggs has every right to ask us about the progress we're making. I would hope he would also use any influence he has with the UK Government to tell them to reverse that capital cut which is having such significant impacts on or budget and on health infrastructure up and down the country."

Mr Briggs said afterwards he was disappointed the First Minister had not committed to a timetable for the new hospital.

He said: "At some point they're going to have to look people in the face, depending on what their decisions are for the overall capital budget, and answer why Lothian has always come out with the worst deal when they're dividing up funding for the health service.

"It' clear the First Minister is acutely aware there needs to be a replacement, but the commitment from government to this projects seems to be becoming weaker and weaker. History has taught us that SNP ministers tried to put a line through this and cancel the project. There is growing concern they will do that again and use capital budget pressures as the reason for that. We need a clear commitment that this is a project they will take forward."

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Ad he suggested the new eye hospital should not be treated as a "new" project to be covered by the block on capital spending. "This isn't a completely new project, this is one that has been in the system for a while."