The Scottish Labour leader and one of the SNP’s most prominent Westminster candidates have clashed over the future of a children’s ward in Paisley.
Kezia Dugdale visited Royal Alexandra Hospital this week to support a local campaign to save its paediatric inpatient service, which health board bosses ruled in February should move to the new Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.
While visiting the facility in Paisley the Labour leader tweeted a picture of a young girl signing a petition against the closure with the caption: “This little girl has done more to stand up for the Children’s ward at the RAH this morning than Mhairi Black has done in last two years.”
Black, who was elected as MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 2015 and is contesting the seat again at the general election, said Dugdale’s tweet was “utter nonsense” and accused her of using the ward’s future for political gain.
In a separate tweet to Labour MSP Anas Sarwar on the subject, Black said: “Your obsession with falsely attacking the SNP instead of the Tories really says it all.”
Dugdale, visiting Glasgow Science Centre today, told The Scotsman: “This was the third time I have visited the Royal Alexandra Hospital - three times more than Mhairi Black’s been.
“Every time I go I’ve been highlighting the threat to the children’s ward. It’s high time Mhairi Black understood that it’s the SNP in charge of our hospitals and our NHS and it’s the SNP that is running them into the ground.
“Every time I go to the Royal Alexandra I meet with parents - not people connected to the Labour party - who are extremely worried about what would happen if that ward closes down. They’re worried about having to drive through traffic to Glasgow.
“I think Mhairi Black has been found wanting on this.”
In a statement posted online, Black said: “I have tried to ensure this issue isn’t politicsed, as I take it very seriously and I want to give the concerned parents who approached me an opportunity to have a real discussion about these changes.
“Let me be clear: as soon as the health board voted to approve these changes I wrote to the cabinet secretary saying I do want them to go ahead and asking her to come to Renfrewshire to meet with affected parents. She agreed to meet with them, and I was happy to organise that meet.
“I am going to continue working with concerned parents of Renfrewshire and no doubt Labour will continue playing petty politics.”