Kezia Dugdale has warned that the SNP’s “contempt” for north and north-east Scotland could put the lives of a quarter of Scotland’s population at risk.
On a visit to Aberdeen, the Scottish Labour leader was highly critical of the Nationalists amid fears they will renege on a promise to build a major trauma centre in the Granite City in favour of the central belt.
Ms Dugdale claimed “the idea that someone can just stick a bandage on you and send you three hours down the road to Glasgow is just a nonsense”.
Her concerns were echoed by NHS Grampian’s Dr Simon Barker, who met Ms Dugdale during her visit, while union Unison is planning a rally in Aberdeen this morning, backing calls for the centre to be built.
But Nicola Sturgeon accused Ms Dugdale of “scaremongering” and claimed she was “wrong on the facts and wrong to politick over such a serious issue”.
In 2014, then-health secretary Alex Neill promised to build major trauma centres in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
But the SNP has since indicated the centres may only be built in the central belt, citing fears from senior clinicians that one in the north-east would not be viable.
Ms Dugdale – who has pledged to press ahead with the trauma centre plans if elected on May 5 – told the Press and Journal: “As much as it is important for Aberdeen we are talking about the whole of the north of Scotland here.
“If there is no trauma centre for Aberdeen then that means 25% of the population will be without this vital service.
“The message that I got from the consultants was that the quality of treatment that you should get in the north and north-east should be of the same standard as the central belt.
“It’s fundamentally a question of equality more than anything.”
The SNP manifesto contains a commitment that ARI will be part of a major trauma “network” – a pledge that has been branded by opposition politicians as nothing more than “spin”.
Ms Dugdale added: “There’s really strong evidence and medical reasons why there needs to be a trauma centre in Aberdeen – the better quality of care means you are more likely to live if you have an awful accident, but you are also more likely to have a better outcome.
“It is not just about whether you live or die it is about how well you are post-accident.
“The idea that someone can just stick a bandage on you and send you three hours down the road to Glasgow is just a nonsense.”
Speaking after his meeting with Ms Dugdale, Dr Barker added: “We remain very concerned about the trauma centre.
“Not getting a trauma centre would make it more difficult to recruit and retain staff.
“It is only part of a big service we already deliver, but it is an important part.”
But Ms Sturgeon said the SNP had increased NHS Grampian’s funding by 50%, “delivering more doctors and nurses and better quality care to patients”.
The first minister added: “Labour have spent the past weeks scaremongering over major trauma provision in Aberdeen but they’re wrong on the facts and wrong to politick over such a serious issue.
“Our manifesto makes absolutely clear that ARI will be a key part of Scotland’s major trauma network.
“On top of that, we’ve made a commitment that Aberdeen will be the site of a new elective treatment centre – part of £200million of investment to improve care for older people. There’s no word of anything similar from Labour or the Tories in this election.”