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Has the Highlands just heard the first shot fired in the next general election?

By Scott Maclennan

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Angus MacDonald and Bill Lobban.
Angus MacDonald and Bill Lobban.

Councillor Angus MacDonald hit out at the SNP-Independent over a bid to press the Scottish Government to better fund NHS Highland but the move drew an angry response from Convener Bill Lobban.

In what could well be the first shot of the next general election, Cllr MacDonald – who is the Liberal Democrat for newly drawn Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross constituency – tabled a motion to full council.

He hit out after the SNP-Independent administration voted down his calls to lobby the Scottish Government to fully fund NHS Highland facing a huge multi-million black hole.

Cllr MacDonald hit out at those who voted to support a watered-down letter asking for share of First Minister’s £300 million delayed discharge fund Liberal Democrat councillor likened Independent councillors to “the Greens at Holyrood.”

Cllr Lobban pounced on that, saying: "Maybe Cllr MacDonald would be better placed pontificating about things we can change and make a difference with – instead of playing national politics. Is there an election due?"

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That was in response to scathing comments claiming that the “losers” in all this are ultimately “the old and sick across the Highlands. If we can’t fight for our constituents on issues like this, what is our purpose?”

He said: “NHS Highland has a £98 million funding gap, 13,500 people are on waiting lists, our suicide rate in the Highlands is the highest in Scotland, and Inverness city is growing fast without medical services increasing to match that. Hospitals across the Highlands such as Raigmore, the Belford and Portree are not fit for purpose, and staff shortages are a massive issue.

“We need the Highlands to have a strong health sector, and to do that we need the funding required to pay the staff properly, equip them with staff accommodation, and ensure we have care homes and hospitals fit for the future.

“The Independent councillors were voted in by their constituents because they were seen as independent. It’s clear they are not, they vote alongside their SNP administration partners, just as the Greens do at Holyrood. The losers are the old and sick across the Highlands. If we can’t fight for our constituents on issues like this what is our purpose?

“Us Highlanders seem to accept our lot with little complaint. We need large numbers to petition the Health Minister Michael Matheson to fully fund NHS Highland sufficiently well to do its job and avoid massive cuts on an already limping service.”

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