MSP critical of health board during isles visit
Tory MSP Douglas Ross has criticised NHS Shetland’s decision to have patients travelling to Aberdeen for medical appointments go by boat.
In his first visit to Shetland since being elected as a list member for the Highlands and Islands Mr Ross called the moves, which generated a severe backlash locally, “very concerning”.
He said that he understood the local NHS had to cut costs but said that “patient care has to come first”. He had heard of cases where people who make regular trips to the mainland for recurring treatments were saying they would choose no treatment at all over a regular ferry journey.
“I’ve used the ferry and I’ve used flights to come up,” Mr Ross said. “What I can say is that the ferry journey was not a pleasant experience because of the weather on that particular night.
“I don’t think patients who are unwell should be forced to use the boat to travel to the mainland in potentially unpleasant conditions.
“I hope the NHS board strongly reconsider based on the strength of feeling around this.”
Another local issue which has recently provoked strong reactions is the proposed 21-turbine windfarm on the outskirts of Lerwick recently announced by Peel Energy.
Members of Sustainable Shetland, a group strongly opposed to the controversial Viking Energy project, have already objected to the project based on its “significant” size.
Mr Ross said that his party had a “balanced energy policy” which supported onshore wind technology in moderation, alongside nuclear, fossil and other renewables.
“We believe there should be a mix and in terms of wind energy projects we feel they should only go ahead if they are of an appropriate scale and in an appropriate location.”
During his last visit to Shetland, prior to being elected, Mr Ross correctly predicted that the Conservatives were in a position to become Scotland’s main opposition party.
Reflecting on that he said he felt the Tories benefited from presenting themselves as the only party “unequivocally” in favour of the union.
A “reluctant remainer”, Mr Ross also felt that the SNP was wrong to pursue a second independence vote so soon after the first based on the result of the EU referendum.
He said: “What does bother me is that my remain vote is being used as an excuse for a second independence referendum.
“I don’t think anyone at the time thought that their vote would be used for or against staying in the UK.”
Addressing the personal controversies he experienced during his first year in Holyrood, Mr Ross defended his three jobs, a matter which has seen him come in for criticism from his parliamentary peers.
In the case of his role as a Moray councillor he said he had continued in the role since his election to Holyrood without accepting a wage for his efforts. He added that he would not be seeking re-election.
More controversially Mr Ross has continued to work as a football referee, a job which saw him unable to attend a justice committee meeting in the Scottish Parliament – despite being his party’s justice spokesman – because he was officiating at a Champions League fixture in Lisbon.
This led opposition MSPs to call for him to stand down from his frontbench position.
But during his visit to Shetland Mr Ross defended his decision to keep refereeing, a job which earns him up to £40,000 each year according to the Scottish Parliament’s register of interests.
“I think it’s positive for politicians to have an outside interest”, he said, adding that his role as an MSP remained his “number one priority.”
Mr Ross held three surgeries during his two-day visit. He also had meetings with former SIC convener Malcolm Bell, former political leader Gary Robinson and police chief Lindsay Tulloch, among others.