Centralisation row emerges with opposition voiced to ‘mashing’ together of health boards

The SNP has faced renewed criticism over centralisation of services after its manifesto made reference to a “review of the number, structure and regulation” of health boards.

The party’s Scottish election candidate has also stood by his commitment to a new Gilbert Bain Hospital – despite the SNP manifesto merely committing to a refurbishment of the existing building.

Tom Wills has spoken after his Liberal Democrat rival Beatrice Wishart said she would oppose any centralisation plans.

The SNP has said that it wants to remove “unwarranted duplication of functions and make best use of the public purse.”

Attempts were made during the last parliament to centralise health boards, but the plans were stopped dead in their tracks following strong opposition to the proposals.

Ms Wishart said:  “Delivering good-quality health and care services in our islands to a population that is living longer but with more complex conditions presents enormous challenges. Those challenges are not tackled by mashing health boards together and hope they work better.

 “While deeply concerning, these plans are in keeping with a party that has a track record of centralising services away from our island communities.

 “The last time the SNP attempted to ‘examine the number’ of health boards they were met with strong local opposition, and I stand firm against any dilution of local control on local healthcare delivery.”

Questioned by The Shetland Times, Mr Wills pointed to “Shetland-specific” proposals – including plans on how more local control may be allowed.

“I think there has been centralisation from Thatcher onwards and some of it has been under the SNP.

“I’ve proposed that we use the Islands Act, which is an existing piece of legislation that provides for powers to be devolved to Shetland.

“The SIC has yet to use that mechanism to ask for any powers to be devolved.”

It comes after Mr Wills previously argued in favour of the construction of a new Gilbert Bain.

But his party’s manifesto has pointed only to a refurbishment on the hospital.

However, Mr Wills said he was committed to the idea of a new build over time.

“I don’t think there is any contradiction in me acknowledging the good stuff the SNP has done and saying I’m going to push them to do much more.

“It’s the question of how soon we can get it done, and my role as Shetland’s representative is to push for the best thing for Shetland.”

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