Show respect to Barra, says Rhoda Grant MSP

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has called on the Scottish Government to “show the people of Barra some respect” by giving a full explanation of where plans for a new hospital now stand.

Two weeks ago, the island was shocked when the Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, told community representatives in an on-line call that plans for the hospital, first promised in 2008, had been cancelled as it was no longer affordable.

Mrs Grant said: “The lack of explanation, far less apology, provided to people on Barra and Vatersay has been truly shocking. No Minister is entitled to treat a community like this in a zoom call and then assume that is the end of the matter”.

She said: “Barra’s hospital was forced into a Public Private Partnership package by SNP Ministers and now the whole thing seems to have fallen apart. We need to know if there is any alternative plan and also implications for other parts of the package.

“I have tabled questions to establish what remains of plans to replace St Brendan’s Hospital and also the dental clinic and GP unit. We also need to understand the knock-on effects for other parts of the so-called ‘hub’ package including a new school, recreation facilities and a police station”.

Mrs Grant said: “Severe doubts were expressed from Barra about whether the Public Private ‘hub’ model which lumped all these facilities into one complex was appropriate for a small island community. These concerns were brushed aside and Barra was told this was the only way to get anything.

“While the local authority says it remains committed to its parts of the project, questions remain about whether these are deliverable, and at what cost, under the changed circumstances. The Scottish Government cannot just walk away and leave the council with that problem”.

Mrs Grant said it was “astonishing” there had been no comprehensive statement about the fate of the overall “hub” project and added: “Mr Matheson should show the people of Barra and Vatersay some respect by going there and facing up to the implications of what he has hit them with from a safe distance”.