FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon rejects call to sack Robison

Shona Robison, right, has defied calls to quit since the NHS Tayside scandal emerged
Shona Robison, right, has defied calls to quit since the NHS Tayside scandal emerged
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Nicola Sturgeon has rejected opposition calls to sack embattled health Secretary Shona Robison over the row involving mis-use of charity cash in the NHS.

Labour leader Richard Leonard told MSPs at First Ministers Questions today that warnings about the situation at NHS Tayside had been ignored for years and £200 million of cuts are now faced at the cash strapped health board.

"What makes this all worse is that this is happening in Tayside under the nose of the health Secretary who is a member of Parliament for Dundee," Lr Leonard said.

"It's too late for the Health Secretary to be an honest broker in the NHS Tayside affair.

"Will the First Minister reflect on this and will she face up to the fact that the time has come for her health Secretary to go?"

Read More: Robison defies call to quit over NHS Tayside crisis
But Ms Sturgeon instead gave her backing to Ms Robison, a long-term political ally.

"I'll continue to give my support as First Minister to the job the Health Secretary is doing to strengthen the leadership of the NHS Tayside board, with the new chief executive and chair arrangements that have been put in place and to make sure that that board has the support to undertake the transformation that it needs to do.

"That is what we will continue to focus on because actually, in the final analysis here, what is important is services to patients. Actually NHS Tayside provides a very high level of patient service and our job, the health secretary's and mine, is to make sure that they continue to do that."

Labour has been calling for Ms Robison to go since it emerged that NHS Tayside had been using charitable endowment cash to pay for backroom functions, instead of frontline patient care as intended. The chair and chief executive who were in place at the board when it came to light have both been replaced.

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Holyrood's public audit committee had been told today told by Scotland's public spending watchdog that warnings over the finances of NHS Tayside have "sounded very cleary" in the last few years, but were not "taken seriously".

Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland told the committee: "Internal auditors raised concerns about the retrospective transactions back in 2014 and it is included in the external auditors report as well.

"There is a significant question about why, throughout the NHS system, warnings from auditors are not being taken seriously.

"The reason why is something you would need to ask of Scottish Government and of the board itself.

"In NHS Tayside these warnings have been sounded since 2013-14 very clearly".

In recent years NHS Tayside had to be bailed out with £45.3 million of Scottish Government loans.