HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has refused to tell the Scottish Parliament why the former chairman of NHS Lothian resigned.

Freeman said she would not get into a “tit for tat” exchange with Brian Houston, who announced he would be leaving the post last week.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Houston said there was a “blame culture” and “irreconcilable differences” between himself and the Health Secretary.

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Freeman said the current “crisis” in the NHS in Scotland – which Alex Cole-Hamilton, the LibDem MSP for Edinburgh West, described as resulting in a number of health boards in special measures and issues at hospitals in Edinburgh and Glasgow – was not her fault.

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Responding to a question from Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, the Cabinet Secretary refused to give specifics as to why Houston stepped down.

Johnson said: “The Cabinet Secretary’s refusal to explain the resignation quite simply isn’t good enough.

“We have a health board that is in special measures, a hospital costing £1.4 million a month which cannot open.

“It’s in the public interest to find out what this fundamental difference of opinion is.

“Will the Cabinet Secretary take this opportunity to explain to the public why the chair has resigned?”

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In response, Freeman said: “No, I won’t. Because as I said Mr Johnson, I am not going to get into a public tit for tat debate with Mr Houston about what he put in his resignation letter. I think that is entirely inappropriate to do so.”

The Health Secretary also refused to answer specific questions about the underlying reasons for Houston’s departure from Scottish Labour’s shadow secretary for health, Monica Lennon, and Sarah Boyack MSP.

Freeman said she has already started the process to find a new chairman of NHS Lothian.