SNP suffer defeat with healthcare vote

SNP government defeated after Holyrood health debate.
SNP government defeated after Holyrood health debate.
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Nicola Sturgeon’s government last night suffered a parliamentary defeat when opposition parties rallied behind Labour calls to protect local NHS services against downgrading and closure.

MSPs backed by 64 votes to zero the party’s motion urging Health Secretary Shona Robison to “call in” health board proposals to downgrade some hospital services.

Some 62 SNP MSPs abstained in the vote, which came after the Scottish Government’s amendment stressing its commitment to “maintaining and improving safe and effective local services across Scotland” was defeated.

After the vote, Labour called on Ms Robison to “accept the will of Parliament”.

The party’s health spokesman, Anas Sarwar, said: “Parliament has clearly stated its will that the proposed NHS service changes and downgrades should be called in for ministerial decision.

“Will the Health Secretary take this opportunity to say she will accept the will of ­Parliament?”

Mr Sarwar had earlier argued the government must designate plans to downgrade or close services in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Lothian as “major service changes”, meaning they would require ministerial approval before they could go ahead.

“The bucks stops with Shona Robison and the Cabinet Secretary is accountable to this Parliament. That is why it is vitally important that the Cabinet Secretary calls in the proposals so that all of us in this chamber who represent different communities and constituencies can ensure all the various voices can be heard.

“It would be a democratic outrage if we allowed health boards to proceed with these decisions without individual members of this Parliament or indeed this minister having a say.

“What is particularly frustrating for campaigners is that the Cabinet Secretary is saying nothing at all. If the Cabinet Secretary, as she said prior to the election, opposes any of these services changes, she should be brave enough to say she opposes them.”

Labour has said that maternity services at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria and Inverclyde Hospital in Greenock, paediatric services at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and trauma orthopaedics at Monklands Hospital in Airdrie are all at risk.

The party also has concerns over the future of inpatient services at the Centre for Integrated Care in Glasgow, cleft palate services at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and the closure of Glasgow’s Lightburn Hospital.

Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron backed the Labour motion, saying there is “clearly a wider public interest at stake here”.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens also supported Labour’s motion, which was enough to ensure a significant defeat for the government.

Ms Robison said no final decisions have been made. She said: “The possibility that some or indeed all of these service change proposals may change as a result of the public engagement under way, and that some or indeed all may ultimately be subject to ministerial approval, means it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the specifics in any detail today and say whether or not I support them.”

She added: “Local people can be ensured that in all such cases, ministers take all the available information and representations into account before coming to a final decision.”