The First Minister has personally pledged that Aberdeen will get a major trauma centre.
In an interview with the Press and Journal, Nicola Sturgeon said she has “always been persuaded” of the need for the life-saving facility in Aberdeen.
But opposition politicians cast doubt on the veracity of the SNP leader’s promise after her candidate in Aberdeen Central, Kevin Stewart, appeared to be unaware of her commitment just hours after it was made.
In a TV hustings broadcast last night, Mr Stewart said: “Aberdeen will play a major part in Scotland’s major trauma network, that is extremely important.
“This should not be a scaremongering issue as some have done through the course of this election.
“What our duty is, what my duty is, is to make sure that patients get the best possible care, that’s why I’m happy with what the SNP Government has said.”
His comments have been branded “a far cry from the seemingly unequivocal response” from Ms Sturgeon on the issue – who even suggested she would over-rule medical experts to get the project the green light if need be.
The First Minister told the Press and Journal: “Aberdeen will have a major trauma centre. The manifesto is clear.
“As is the case with different specialties, we encourage clinicians to work together as part of a network but Aberdeen will have a major trauma centre.
“There has never been any doubt about that and actually I think some of the scaremongering on the part of some of our opponents has been quite shameful.”
In 2014, then Health Secretary Alex Neill announced Aberdeen would be one of the four sites given major trauma centre status – but his successor Shona Robison has since rowed-back on the commitment, claiming senior clinicians have doubts about the viability of such a facility in the north-east.
Fears grew when the SNP manifesto only committed to ARI being part of a trauma centre “network”, while more than 3,500 people have signed a petition demanding the SNP keep their commitment on a major trauma centre for the Granite City.
When asked by the Press and Journal about possible clinicians’ concerns, Ms Sturgeon said: “There will always be debates around the viability of services based on the put-through of patients to clinicians to keep up their skills.
“But you also have to take account of in Aberdeen some of the issues in terms of the risks – the importance of a major trauma centre in Aberdeen was raised with me, quite rightly, when I was in Orkney during the campaign because for the islands that’s important as well.
“I don’t think there has been a question mark over the location of a major trauma centre in Aberdeen but if there is I am removing it because there will be a major trauma centre in Aberdeen.”
But opposition politicians claimed the SNP were in disarray over the issue after Mr Stewart appeared unaware of his party leader’s commitment.
Scottish Labour’s Aberdeen Central candidate, Lewis Macdonald, said: “The First Minister has spoken as if there definitely will be one.
“Given her candidate in Aberdeen Central appears to have not been told he can say that makes her claims even more suspect.”
Tom Mason, the Tories’ candidate in Aberdeen Central, added: “It would appear that Kevin Stewart needs to consult his party leader, as his comments were a far cry from the seemingly unequivocal response from Nicola Sturgeon on this issue.
“We need MSPs in the north-east who will stand up for local people, not wait to be told by their masters in Edinburgh what the party line is.”
The other candidate in Aberdeen Central is the Liberal Democrats’ Ken McLeod.