By Bill Heaney
Softly, softly. Secret Scotland reared its ugly SNP head in Dumbarton this week.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrived unannounced to real reporters who might have had a pertinent question or ten to ask her.
Instead, Sturgeon vowed to secure the future of the Vale of Leven Hospital for many decades to come.
How many times have we heard that one?
And are we really supposed to believe that a lick of paint here and there is a sign, or a guarantee even’ that the Vale, the first hospital in Scotland to be opened after the Second World War under the Labour government which introduced the NHS, is here to stay?
Her Majesty the Queen opening Vale of Leven Hospital back in the 1950s.
Pull the other one NIcola. You have been in power both as Health Secretary and First Minister in the Scottish Parliament for 14 years or more and the Vale still has the Sword of Damocles hanging over it.
The First Minister visited Dumbarton and the Vale – but not Helensburgh, where Ministry of Defence families would have given her short shrift over the SNP stance on Trident – with Nationalist candidate Toni Giugliano.
I think she expects the Navy families to accept the closure of the Faslane Base without complaint and be like turkeys voting for Christmas. No jobs, no money, no holidays, and food from a food bank.
It may surprise readers to know that well-heeled Helensburgh already has a food bank for its poorest residents.
Just 109 votes separated the SNP’s Gail Robertson from Labour’s Jackie Baillie in 2016, making the seat one of the closest in the country.
Baillie goes down well in Helensburgh both with Navy families and long-time residents and appears to be welcome wherever she goes.
Unlike Sturgeon, who visited couple of the new houses at Talisman Road in Westcliff before travelling on to Alexandria. Look at the picture of the two West Dunbartonshire Council workmen to whom she stopped to speak.
It doesn’t look as if they are thrilled with their SNP council employers. The expression on their faces says it all.
Sturgeon, who can talk between words, told the journalist who did turn up: “It’s really important that we protect this local hospital, as capital investment plans help us to refurbish community maternity facilities, theatres and pharmacies.
“We have big plans to secure the future of the Vale well into the years and decades to come. But it needs a strong local champion, and I’m absolutely convinced that’s what Toni will provide.”
Good old Giggles.
Last week the SNP pledged to refurbish the Vale of Leven Hospital if re-elected on Thursday, May 6.
The Alexandria district hospital facility would receive a face-lift to wipe away the many years of doubt and neglect it has suffered under the SNP despite all the protest marches and keep open campaigns.
More than 5,000 people walked in one “Hands Around the Hospital” protest march.
The SNP candidate Toni Giugliano put a brave face on it when accompanied his boss who sometimes was forced to shout her slogans up to people hanging out their windows.
It made very poor television for those of us not invited to witness it by the anti-democrats on the Nationalist council and the SNP constituency party.
Toni Giugliano said: “This is a huge commitment to our communities. For too long politicians have portrayed the hospital as vulnerable for narrow political gain – today’s announcement sets in stone its long-term future.
“The SNP has created 15 new services at the Vale since 2015 – and today’s news reinforces our commitment to the Vale.”
He said nothing about the services which the Vale has lost and seen switched miles away across the Erskine Bridge to the RAH and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
Jackie Baillie poured cold water on these remarks – “If this was money for new equipment such as scanners or to bring new services to the Vale of Leven hospital expanding what is available for local people, then I would welcome this announcement wholeheartedly.
“But the reality is that this money is for building work and could be for nothing more than a lick of paint.”
Meanwhile, Sturgeon has walked into another attack over her plans for Scottish independence.
Responding to comments from Nicola Sturgeon to ITV Borders that “Nobody in the SNP wants to see a border between Scotland and England”, Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign chair Alistair Carmichael, a former fiscal at Dumbarton, said: “Wanting a border between Scotland and England is literally the foundational policy of the SNP.
“Nicola Sturgeon must think the Scottish public are complete mugs, especially just one day after one of her MSPs was talking up the prospect of a hard border.
“No amount of tall tales from the First Minister will change the reality that independence would throw up a hard border, dividing families and decimating trade with our partners to the south.
“Boris Johnson promised there would be no new barriers in Northern Ireland, only to renege on what he had pledged further down the line. It’s disappointing to see Nicola Sturgeon taking a leaf out of the Tory Brexiteer playbook.”