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The needs of Barra people are being forgotten by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh – and the latest change of heart is being partly blamed on war in the Ukraine.  

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, says the responses she has received from the Scottish Government about the official U-turn on the new Barra hospital plan are "deeply unsatisfactory" and added "They leave the impression there is absolutely no back-up plan or sense of urgency about meeting Barra's needs."  Ands that's almost 20 years after a new hospital was first proposed.  

The Scottish Government has now declined to put any timescale on provision of health care facilities on Barra following its decision to abandon existing plans for a replacement hospital.

In response to written questions tabled by Mrs Grant, Health Secretary Michael Matheson said only that they “remained committed to delivery of quality health and care facilities on Barra.”

The MSP had asked for “current proposals and timescales for the replacement hospital, dental clinic and GP unit on the Isle of Barra” and for “a ministerial statement in order to provide a detailed update to the Parliament on these matters.”

The Health Secretary replied “The Outline Business Case for the provision of new health facilities at the Barra Health and Social Care Hub has been submitted. However detailed design work on the proposals has been unable to start due to the budgetary pressure across the capital investment programme.

“Scottish Government officials will engage with NHS Western Isles and the Scottish Futures Trust to consider the timing of the construction and will work closely with partners to identify alternative options.”

Mrs Grant also asked about prospects for the new school campus which was part of the “hub” concept. Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth replied “The procurement route for the school and leisure element of the campus is the decision of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, this is currently being procured by the local authority through hub North Scotland. The project is expected to be delivered by April 2026.”

The answers leave Barra in the dark about what happens next to the replacement for St Brendan’s Hospital which was first promised by Nicola Sturgeon as Health Secretary in 2008.

Despite serious misgivings on Barra, the hospital plans were later incorporated into the Scottish Government’s Public-Private “hub” model which lumped together a wide range of public services in one large campus, before last month’s bombshell.

Mrs Grant also received a letter of response from Mr Matheson about the hospital which claims “the Scottish Government's ability to fund capital projects has been affected by a reduction in the amount of capital grant from the UK Government over the next two years, and unprecedented levels of inflation as a result of Covid, Brexit, uncertainty in the supply chain and the war in Ukraine.”

She said “This must be their stock response now as they are using the same excuses for failing to dual the A9. They say other partners, including the Scottish Futures Trust quango which they set up in 2008, may wish to proceed without the Health Board, which they fund.

“You really could not make this up. They have turned their backs on Barra and unfortunately their own MP and MSP appear content to let them do this.”