Lib Dems pledge to fix Scotland's 'dental deserts'

Alex Cole-Hamilton and Ed Davey
Ed Davey and Alex Cole-Hamilton and spoke at a Lib Dem campaign event in North Queensferry [PA Media]

The Liberal Democrats have promised patients will be able to see an NHS dentist at the first time of asking as a flagship policy of their general election campaign.

Scottish leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, accused the SNP and Conservative governments either side of the border of “neglecting” services and turning parts of the UK into “dental deserts”.

UK leader Sir Ed Davey joined him at a campaign event in North Queensferry, and predicted the Lib Dems would make gains in Scotland and become the UK’s third largest party.

He said his party would not form a coalition with the Conservatives, but did not rule out an agreement with Labour.

“There are lots of hypotheticals but I’m going to focus on the campaign," Sir Ed told BBC Scotland News.

Sir Ed said electing Lib Dem MPs would help to “send a message” to the SNP government, who he accused of "failing" on NHS dentistry.

Although he acknowledged dentistry was a devolved issue, the party leader said UK-wide measures, such as cutting VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste, would have an impact in Scotland.

He told BBC Scotland News the NHS was the biggest issue for voters north of the border.

“It is things like GPs and dentists and hospital times and cancer waiting times," Sir Ed said.

“And then issues like sewage and the state of the economy.

"This is an election actually I think that will be more important for most people than the constitutional question.”

Dental work
Mr Cole-Hamilton said those waiting for dental care were "in pain" due to long wait times [PA Media]

Sir Ed identified “rebuilding trust” with the EU as another of his party’s priorities, but he refused to confirm the Lib Dem manifesto would include a commitment to rejoining the bloc.

The SNP, meanwhile, have campaigned for EU membership for an independent Scotland.

“I know the SNP try to make out that you can wave a magic wand and suddenly get back into Europe," Sir Ed said.

“They’re misleading the Scottish people and that’s really bad.”

“The only way it can be done from the SNP’s point of view is through independence and independence just isn’t going to happen, let’s be really clear, in the near future, not in the next parliament.”

The Lib Dems have four of Scotland’s 59 current seats at Westminster.

The party has spent almost a decade as the UK's fourth largest party behind the SNP.

Sir Ed launched the party’s UK campaign last Thursday with a pledge to recruit 8,000 GPs.

Under their plans, half would come from a recruitment drive, while the other half would come by increasing retention rates.

It would only apply in England as health is a devolved to Holyrood.

Meanwhile, the SNP leader John Swinney visited Dumfries and Galloway, where Scottish secretary Alister Jack is the outgoing MP.

The first minister said the SNP were the main challengers in Conservative-held seats.

“If people in Scotland want to get rid of the Tories, they’ve got to vote SNP,” Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland News.

He highlighted Brexit, the cost of living crisis and austerity, which he said had been inflicted on Scotland by Westminster.

John Swinney in Glenrothes
John Swinney campaigned in Glenrothes during the first weekend of the election race [PA Media]

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is campaigning in Falkirk, the seat held by Michael Matheson, ahead of his plans to bring forward a vote on demanding the former health secretary resign over the scandal surrounding his iPad data roaming bill.

Holyrood’s standards committee recommended Mr Matheson should be barred from the chamber for 27 days and docked 54 days’ worth of his MSP salary.

Mr Ross said: “In any other line of work, Michael Matheson would lose his job. MSPs cannot put themselves on a higher pedestal than others.

“We must be held to the same standards.”

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, put forward his party’s plans on green jobs during a visit to a windfarm in South Lanarkshire.

He told BBC Scotland News: "We are campaigning to deliver a new deal for working people that will ban exploitative zero contracts, that will end the scandal of fire and rehire and will deliver a genuine living wage for everyone right across our country, that too is at the heart of our programme for change."

In Glasgow, the Scottish Greens are unveiling their full slate of candidates for the 4 July ballot.

The party said voters will be able to select a Green candidate in every part of the city in a bid to put “people and the planet first”.

Their candidates include Iris Duane who is seeking to become the first trans woman of colour elected to Westminster.

Launching his party's election campaign in Dundee, Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said a vote for his party would be an “unambiguous vote for independence” as he accused the SNP of having "lost its way”.