KATE Forbes has led hundreds of marchers through Fort William in protest at plans to pause work on building a new hospital in the area.

The current Belford Hospital in Fort William was built in the 1960s and is the busiest of the six rural general hospitals in the Highlands and Islands.

However, it is also the only one not to have been replaced over the past 40 years.

In January, a £130 million plan to replace the hospital was thrown into uncertainty despite being at an advanced stage, with contractors having already visited the site.

The Scottish Government announced that it may no longer be able to sanction the cash needed for several healthcare construction projects in the Highlands – including Belford Hospital.

The National:

First Minister Humza Yousaf said the decision had been taken due to UK Government cuts to Scotland’s capital budget, which finances spending on infrastructure projects.

Residents in Lochaber have since ramped up their campaign to have the new hospital built and are being backed by SNP former leadership candidate Forbes.

Around 700 people gathered at the rally in Fort William on Saturday, with Forbes making a speech and urging campaigners to keep fighting.

“The turnout today sends a very loud and clear message that Lochaber is backing a new Belford and that planning and design work on the new hospital must continue,” she said.

The National:

“Senior management at NHS Highland must make this their number one priority.

“To that end I expect them, with Scottish Government support, to do everything within their power to make a new Belford ready to build.

“Whether the hospital is built has a massive impact on everyone living, working and visiting Lochaber, especially as Fort William is the Outdoor Capital of the UK.

“Members of the community and I stand ready to work with NHS Highland to progress plans. I am absolutely committed to fighting tooth and nail for a new hospital for Fort William.”

NHS Highland has previously said the pause in spending was “very disappointing for everyone involved” and said it “recognised that the voice of the community needs to be heard”.