HEALTH CARE PROTEST: Bed push to go ahead in Portree

Picture by Willie Urquhart

Plans for a health care protest in Portree this Saturday were finally approved as we went to press on Wednesday.

Skye SOS NHS are to hold a ‘bed push’, starting at the cemetery at 3pm and concluding at the Skye Gathering Hall, where a public meeting is due to take place to highlight NHS Highland’s failure to protect key health services, such as out-of-hours midwifery and walk-in urgent care, in Portree Hospital.

However, according to the group, local police initially barred them from holding the demonstration on the road, insisting that protestors use the pavements and kept marchers to two abreast.

It is understood there were police concerns that not enough officers could be found to control traffic on the day and that Skye SOS NHS had not given enough notice of their intention to march.

Campaigners denied this, and were granted a meeting with police and Highland Council roads officials on Tuesday, where they could appeal last week’s decision. They also pointed out that an Orange March, which has attracted a “huge number of objections”, is due to take place on the same day in Inverness.

Immediately following Tuesday’s meeting even the prospect of the ‘bed push’ going ahead on the pavement was thrown into doubt.

Chair of Skye SOS NHS, Fay Thomson, said: “The local police indicated they would allow us to walk on the road if a minimum of three police officers were available to attend but he (the inspector) does not have the resources to provide any police officers.

“We understand this prevents us from walking on the road as planned.

“Concerns were raised about us walking on the pavement as we would obstruct other pavement users. We were told we couldn’t cross roads because only police officers are allowed to stop traffic in order for a group of people to cross a road.

“The possibility of getting a Temporary Road Traffic order was ruled out due to the timescales and the cost involved. We are particularly baffled because other events such as the Games Day Parade, the annual RNLI welly walk from Sconser to Portree and the Christmas Reindeer parade have been allowed to walk on the road without a TRTO.”

As we went to press, it was reported that Skye councillor Ruraidh Stewart had intervened, and that the council’s principal solicitor had also contacted police.

Ms Thomson confirmed to the Free Press that Inspector Ali Mackenzie had finally given permission for the bed push to go ahead on the road at 3pm rather than the original time of 2pm this Saturday.