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Friday, April 16, 1999 Published at 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK


Labour health row deepens

Labour's treasurer has entered the row over PFI funding.

The row over Scottish Labour's support for the Private Finance Initiative has deepened after the party treasurer called on it to ditch the policy.

Bob Thomson's appeal came just days after leading Unison union official Mark Irvine resigned from the party over policies, including the use of PFI to build hospitals and schools.

Mr Thomson, who was once a senior official in the public service union, said the use of private companies in the building of public service projects, is poor value for money and a potential vote loser.

He said: "The Private Finance Initiative is bad for the tax payer and too expensive.

"It means our schools and hospitals are going to be owned and run by private companies and I think that is wrong.

"I would call on New Labour to rethink their policy.

Mr Irvine, who is head of Unison's local government division, withdrew his Labour membership after claiming the party has lost its way and lacked principle.

Further unrest

And there are signs of further unrest among union officials, with reports that Unison members at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary had withdrawn support from the party over its stance on PFI.

Colleagues at two other hospitals in Edinburgh are said to be considering joining the protest.

They are particularly unhappy at the use of private money on the new infirmary under construction in the south of the capital.

Scottish National Party Chief Executive Mike Russell said Labour was clearly split over the issue.

He said: "Bob Thomson's remarks go to the heart of Labour's disarray and division and disarray in this campaign.

"When the treasurer of the Labour Party says a central flagship policy is one that needs to be reconsidered then it confirms what we have known for a long time.

"PFI is the fault line in labour's campaign and the crack is opening day by day."



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