New Royal Hospital for Sick Children (Edinburgh)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th March 2011.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Executive whether it remains committed to funding the new Royal hospital for sick children in Edinburgh proposed by NHS Lothian and, if so, when it expects building work to commence. (S3O-13295)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government remains fully committed to the delivery of the Royal hospital for sick children as quickly as possible. As I indicated to Malcolm Chisholm on 13 January 2011, details of the funding support that is available for revenue-financed projects are currently being finalised. Since 13 January, positive work has been undertaken to develop a procurement strategy for the project, which also seeks to maximise clinical benefits through the incorporation of the department of clinical neurosciences as part of the procurement. Both Scottish Government officials and the Scottish Futures Trust continue to support NHS Lothian in taking forward this extremely important development.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is regrettable that we have not progressed further with the project? Does she accept that that is due, in part, to the Government’s failure to approve a proposal for a joint Royal hospital for sick children and neurosciences project that was presented to it by NHS Lothian back in December 2009 and the Government’s subsequent decision, in November 2010, to involve the Scottish Futures Trust in a different funding model? Are we not nearly two years behind where we should have been with the project?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

No, I do not agree with that. I find it deeply regrettable that, as the country seeks to recover from the recession, the United Kingdom Government, of which David McLetchie is a keen supporter, is slashing the Scottish Government’s capital budget by more than a quarter next year. That is deeply regrettable, as it is having an impact on capital projects. The Scottish Government is determined to see vital projects, such as the sick kids hospital in Edinburgh, proceed, which is why we have taken the action that we have. I do not think that I could have been clearer than I have been today about our support for the project and our determination to see it proceed. I hope that David McLetchie will welcome that.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I share the concerns about the delay in the project. Given that the Scottish Government is continuing to give £850 million in capital to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for the Southern general hospital, will the cabinet secretary give an assurance that, if the SNP is in power after May, the Government will provide NHS Lothian with the £25 million in revenue that it will require for the new sick kids hospital and the department of clinical neurosciences? What tangible benefits does the involvement of the SFT bring to the project?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Just as David McLetchie should direct his concerns about capital funding to his Tory colleagues in London, Margaret Smith should direct her concerns to her Liberal colleagues in London. It is the Tory and Liberal coalition Government that has slashed our capital budgets. We are determined to see the project proceed. If Margaret Smith had listened to my original answer—as, I am sure, she did—she would have heard me say that the financial support that is available for revenue-financed projects is currently being finalised. Equally, she will have heard me give a strong indication of our support for the project to proceed. I hope that all members, in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland, will welcome the Government’s support for a project that is extremely important to the future of the NHS in Scotland.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I ask the question again: what tangible benefit is being brought to the project by the Scottish Futures Trust? My colleague George Foulkes made a freedom of information inquiry to find out what advice was being given to NHS Lothian and the entire answer was redacted—not one piece of information was given out.

None of us can find out what is happening with the project. Will the minister give us a guarantee that she will be able to sign off the project before the end of this parliamentary session? Everyone across the Lothians is worried about the impact of the delays to the project. We are told that the combination of the sick kids and the neuroscience unit has delayed the project and that the Scottish Futures Trust has sent the project into a labyrinthine process.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Futures Trust is providing vital support to NHS Lothian to develop the procurement strategy that will deliver the project. I hope that members will welcome that.

I find astonishing the position of not only the Tory and Liberal Democrat members, but Labour members, as the capital cuts that I have just laid at the door of the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition were, of course, 100 per cent planned by the former Labour Government. The hard reality, which the Opposition parties might not like, is that if it were not for the work of the Scottish Government, assisted by the Scottish Futures Trust, this project would not be happening at all. That is the implication of the budgetary decisions that were proposed by Labour and implemented by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

This Government is determined that this project should proceed. Even if others cannot find it within themselves to welcome that, I am sure that people in the Lothians will.