Nicola Sturgeon says there's 'no doubt' about SNP commitment to replacing Edinburgh's Eye Pavilion

Nicola Sturgeon has said there is “no doubt” about the SNP’s commitment to replacing Edinburgh’s Eye Pavilion as campaigners sought assurances that a proposed new hospital at Little France would get the go-ahead.

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The First Minister said she had a close relative who relied on the services of the Eye Pavilion, so she understood how important it was and how much it needed to be replaced.

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And she said: “Sometimes people have to hear yes for an answer when that is effectively what they're being given.”

Nicola Sturgeon was campaigning with Angus Robertson in Edinburgh Central Pic: Lisa Ferguson

NHS Lothian was told in December last year that the Scottish Government would not fund a replacement Eye Pavilion planned for Little France “now or in the foreseeable future” –despite agreeing in principle to the project in 2018. The health board was told to review its eyecare services and look at dispersing them across the region.

That prompted a public outcry and cross-party calls for a rethink.

And last week the SNP manifesto promised a replacement for the Eye Pavilion would be included in £10 billion worth of spending over the next decade on replacing and refurbishing health facilities across Scotland. But opposition politicians campaigning for the new hospital voiced fears the pledge could still be open to interpretation.

Asked during an election campaign visit to Edinburgh Central if she would give the go-ahead for the new hospital, Ms Sturgeon said: “If that is what the proposition is, that is what we will commit to.

“I think it is important, having asked the health board to look again at some of its plans, that we allow further consideration and discussion, but there is no doubt about the commitment we've made to the Eye Pavilion.

“I have a very close family member who has relied on the services of the Eye Pavilion for many, many, many years so I know how vital it is and I know how much it needs to be replaced.

“We will have discussions with the health board but sometimes people have to hear yes for an answer when that is effectively what they're being given.”

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And she played down suggestions that NHS Lothian had previously been told it could have two capital projects – a replacement cancer centre at the Western General Hospital and a new elective care centre in Livingston – but not a third, the new eye hospital.

She said: “We have to work within capital budgets and we're putting forward a manifesto now that is looking at stretching the capital budgets we consider we're going to have over the next parliament as far as possible and we're making the commitment to the Eye Pavilion. That is not at the expense of elective centres and other capital commitments that are in our planning already.”

The current Eye Pavilion building on Chalmers Street was opened in 1969 and was branded unfit for purpose in 2014. More than £1 million has already been spent on the plans for the new hospital close to the Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter, which would allow it easy access to other medical expertise and state-of-the-art research work.

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