Labour’s Karen Whitefield has been accused of trying to mislead local residents after claiming to have opposed her party’s plans to close the Accident and Emergency unit at the local Monklands hospital in North Lanarkshire.
The candidate for the Airdrie and Shotts constituency claimed at a recent hustings to have opposed the planned closure when it was put to a vote during the last Labour/LibDem administration.
However it has now emerged that on two separate occasions in 2006 Ms Whitefield failed to vote against the closure, in one vote she did not even turn up. In January 2007 Ms Whitefield voted against a motion calling for her party to re-examine the planned closure.
Ms Whitefield’s rival for the Airdrie & Shotts seat, SNP Housing Minister Alex Neil, has accused his Labour opponent of trying to mislead voters over the issue which remains a priority for many local people.
Commenting Mr Neil said:
“Karen Whitefield had the opportunity to oppose this move by her own party but decided to sit on her hands instead.
“Her colleague Andy Kerr called keeping Monklands open ‘a con and a sell out’ when Nicola Sturgeon announced reversal of Labour’s decision in the Scottish parliament.
“Labour have performed a complete U turn on Monklands A&E and are now trying to rewrite history as well. Voters are well aware that it was the SNP who saved this vital local service and only by voting SNP can they be sure that it will remain protected.”
Labour are facing further questions over the party’s policy on Lanarkshire’s three Accident and Emergency Departments after Dr Richard Simpson, Labour’s Health Spokesman, recently insisted that having three A&E departments in Lanarkshire is unsustainable.
Dr Simpson claimed that there should only be one centre of trauma in Lanarkshire and that the SNP’s decision to save Monklands A&E was draining funds from other areas.
An SNP spokesman demanded Labour clarify their position on A&E in Lanarkshire and said: “Despite these quotes appearing in the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser on 6th April 2011 nobody from Labour has contradicted or rebuked them. Dr Simpson has refused to comment despite being approached.”
The SNP spokesman also claimed that funding problems at NHS Lanarkshire are down to financial mismanagement and Labour’s insistence on using PFI/PPP to build Hairmyres, Wishaw.
The spokesman added:
“NHS Lanarkshire is facing a bill of £1.5 billion over the life of PFI/PPP contracts for hospitals worth just £192 million. Over the next five years alone NHS Lanarkshire will have to dole out £245million in PFI/PPP unity charges to fat cats.”