DELIVER OR RESIGN: MSP Forbes’ ultimatum to NHS board over north Skye health care 

Portree hospital. Pic Willie Urquhart

The board of NHS Highland should “consider their positions” if they don’t reopen 24-hour urgent care in Portree Hospital, MSP Kate Forbes said this week.

In an exclusive interview with the Free Press, the former finance secretary also touched on a number of other areas of local interest, including the possible introduction of a tourist tax and the wind farm projects planned on Skye over the next few years.

On the subject of health services on the island, Ms Forbes said: “This has been running for so long. I am sure the community is fed up meeting with me about these issues, because they just want them fixed.

Feelings made clear at a Ritchie report meeting. Pic Willie Urquhart

“The Ritchie report, which was published in 2018, provided a very clear set of recommendations, so there should be accountability for delivering them.

“This is the last chance saloon for NHS Highland to deliver, and they need to deliver 24/7 urgent care in Portree Hospital and expand community beds with appropriate staffing and so on.

“If they don’t deliver there are fundamental questions that should be posed to the board and I think the board should reconsider their roles if these two things are not delivered in quick time.

“I would not hesitate to say that the board should consider their positions if they don’t take this one last opportunity to deliver on the main recommendations of the Ritchie report.”


On the issue of the 10 wind farm projects proposed for Skye, Ms Forbes said: “I am very much on the community side, the majority who are exercised by the extent, by the scale, of the expansion that is being proposed.

“I also think we are in grave danger of Skye being asset-stripped to line shareholders’ pockets at the expense of the local community.”

On calls for a public inquiry into wind developments, Ms Forbes said this was “putting the cart before the horse.”

She added: “That is not required if the system works. There hasn’t been the gross misdemeanour that requires a public inquiry, as we are at the very early stages of this process.

“The planners have an opportunity to really heed the community view on this.

“But I don’t think that is sufficient. We should not be playing whack-a-mole on the  next challenge, we should be looking long term, and asking how do you protect communities with wind, water, rain, as well as land, being in community ownership?

“We absolutely need more community ownership. Our own assets should be harnessed and reinvested and then we might, as an example, not be waiting as long as we are for a new school in Broadford.”


On the issue of a tourist tax, Ms Forbes said: “I have always been sceptical about it, but I think the test will be the extent to which it is truly reinvested in the areas that generate it.

“So if it makes a big difference to Skye then I am all for it, but it needs to go to the communities that are actually taking the hit from tourism.

“If you take the Coastal Communities Fund, this was meant to go to coastal communities, and then Highland Council rewrote the formula so that Inverness and other inland areas would get a share of it.

“My question about the tourist tax is where is it spent and who decides that?

“It needs to actually add value and not just fill potholes.

“I could be more persuaded if it generated a significant sum of money that went into improving services on Skye. However, it should not replace what is already spent.

“The danger here is if there is additional funding going to Skye that should not have net zero benefit.

“It should be surplus to what is already being spent.”

Article by Michael Russell. To read the full interview see this week’s West Highland Free Press