SHADOW Scottish Secretary George Robertson yesterday disclosed the contents of a letter he had received from Grampian Health Board's general manager last week which made clear that the tender documentation for the controversial Stonehaven private hospital would remain secret.

Mr Frank Hartnett told Mr Robertson in his letter of April 17: ``The legal position is that the documentation belongs to the companies and organisations which provided submissions to the board. The board has no power to make that documentation public nor can it force the various consortia to do so.

``In fact, Grampian Healthcare has now changed its mind and will not be making the details of its bid public. It has decided instead to provide a short general press release and an artist's impression of the hospital building.''

The letter concluded that, despite Mr Robertson's reservations, the process the board had undertaken had been ``extremely open and it will continue to be so until the preferred partner is announced at the end of May 1996.''

Mr Robertson said this secrecy was shocking, given that the Stonehaven project was an experiment in privatisation of clinical services in a hospital, an experiment which was not approved of elsewhere in the UK. ``And now they are retreating behind closed doors, and they are not telling what the bids are.''

He claimed that some of the people involved in putting in bids had a very questionable history. One organisation, for example, had as its principal shareholders an American company which had been prosecuted several times in the US.

His Front Bench colleague, Mr John MacAllion, challenged Health Minister Lord James Douglas Hamilton to say whether the GPs who would serve the new Stonehaven hospital supported the Government's proposals. They had recently indicated to the community council that they did not.

Lord James said the GPs had made clear that they wanted a new hospital as soon as was possible, and this was the way to achieve that. Meanwhile, the Minister also announced yesterday that the Scottish Office had approved the #2m refurbishment of Turriff Hospital, operated by Grampian Healthcare NHS Trust, having recently received the business case in support of the hospital.

Lord James said he also had some good news on the preventive front with the national target for a reduction in the number of adult smokers being achieved six years ahead of schedule.

``Our targets are to reduce smoking prevalence from 40% to 32% among 25 to 65 year-olds and from 30% to 21 % in the 12 to 24 age group over the period 1986 to 2000.

``The latest data indicate an overall drop in smokers aged 25 to 65 from 38% in 1992 to 32% in 1994 and, in the younger age group, from 30% to 28% in the same period.''

The Minister also announced that the Government was considering urgently for the Scottish Ambulance Service a new communications system which would provide a more effective command and control system, so improving response times.