THE future of the Vale of Leven Hospital looks, unsurprisingly, to be one of the key local battlegrounds as the Holyrood election campaign enters its final days.

Voters in Helensburgh and Lomond, and across Scotland, go to the polls on Thursday, May 6 to elect the country’s 129 MSPs – though many have already cast their ballots by post.

Despite that, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have both been in the Dumbarton constituency – both parties’ number one target seat, and the tightest constituency fight in Scotland at the last election in 2016 – over the past week.

And the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives have all put pledges to protect and enhance the Vale’s services at the top of their priority list.

During a visit to the area last Thursday, Ms Sturgeon told the Advertiser that the SNP will invest “tens of millions of pounds” in improving services at the Vale of Leven Hospital if it forms the next government at Holyrood.

READ MORE: Profile of Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

“The SNP have a very good record of protecting the Vale of Leven,” she said.

“Accident and emergency closed under Labour. We worked hard to protect emergency services and we have seen lots of new services over the past few years coming to the Vale.

“We think we need to see capital investment in the community maternity unit, pharmacy, theatres and the general fabric of the hospital and that will be a capital investment that amounts to tens of millions of pounds.”

Labour candidate Jackie Baillie, who joined Mr Sarwar on a tour of the area on Monday which took in the Loch Lomond Shores complex as well as the Vale hospital, said: ”My vision for the Vale will see services brought back, expanded and strengthened. We need funding for new, state of the art equipment alongside on-site labs in order to see, diagnose and treat more local people, quicker.

“I am calling for emergency care services to be brought back to the Vale so that more people are treated locally and safely.

READ MORE: Profile of Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

“Over the years, every time the health board has inflicted another cut on our hospital, we as a community have joined together to stand up for our services.

“I will continue to work with local people, campaigners like Hospitalwatch and local GPs to put the Vale of Leven Hospital first.”

Conservative candidate Maurice Corry added: “In recent months, I have been proud to secure new mental health support services at the hospital and ensuring birthing services at the Vale are promoted for mothers.

“It is all fine and well hearing warm words from the SNP in relation to the Vale now. They have been in charge of Scotland’s NHS for the last 14 years and they could have ensured this vital local hospital had all the resources it needed.

“It is a classic case of the SNP being late to the party when it comes to standing up for our health service.

“As we rebuild from the pandemic, it is critical the Vale has the funding it needs to tackle the backlog in treatments and procedures for patients.”

READ MORE: Profile of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon