Nicola Sturgeon has snubbed nine Edinburgh and Lothian MSPs over their request for a meeting about the Scottish Government’s decision to scrap plans for a new eye hospital in the Capital.
The MSPs from four different parties wrote to the First Minister in February after a debate in the Scottish Parliament about the government’s decision to scrap plans for a new hospital to replace Edinburgh’s Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.
They voiced “deep concern” at the proposal to disperse services and the potential loss of a centre of excellence and world-class services.
But now the MSPs have received a reply – more than six weeks after they wrote – which makes no mention of the request for a meeting.
Signed by a civil servant it simply repeats that the government has asked NHS Lothian to review eye services and consider making use of the new elective care centre to be built in Livingston; that it recognises the current Eye Pavilion will need investment to maintain it; and that while it recognises the importance of centres of excellence, it believes more services can now be delivered in the community.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said it was “extremely concerning” that ministers were being so dismissive of people’s real concerns and legitimate questions
He said: “The First Minister has completely dodged the request from opposition MSPs to meet virtually to discuss the urgent need for a new eye hospital in Lothian.
“SNP ministers are not willing to engage with MSPs from all four opposition parties to get the best possible outcome for patients in the Lothians.
Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “It’s very disappointing to receive such a late and dismissive response. Since we wrote the letter we have heard from a huge range of different people expressing real concerns about the impact of losing the Eye Pavilion and raising very serious questions about this dispersed model.”
He said there were worries about people with reduced eyesight having to get to Livingston, specialists having to travel around from centre to centre and the loss of a world-class centre for ophthalmic research.
“We need answers to those questions. I would have thought at the very least a meeting was warranted.”
Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western said pre-election restrictions on government activity might explain the failure to hold a meeting at the moment.
But he said: “It is deeply frustrating, given the level of public anger around this, that the government have waited all these weeks to write back to us.
“It may be the pre-election rules inhibit such a meeting at this time but they should have stated that in the letter. I hope they understand the weight of public feeling around the Eye Pavilion.”
And Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “It would be helpful to meet with the First Minister so she is aware of the strength of feeling as demonstrated by constituents to their representatives in Lothian.
“We’ve had lots of personal testimonies from constituents that is really strong and would make you think twice.”