THE SNP has laid down a challenge to the Tories over “English only issues” as it used its newfound status as the third party in the Commons to tackle government ministers over NHS spending in health questions.
In a taste of the battles to come over the next five years, SNP shadow health secretary Dr Philippa Whitford, a consultant breast surgeon who has just been elected to the seat of Central Ayrshire, challenged Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt over how he intended to fund 5,000 new GPs in England.
It was the first time the SNP have had an automatic right to questions in a session and her intervention comes amid a continuing row over Tory plans to introduce English votes for English laws and exclude Scottish MPs from areas such as health which are completely devolved to Scotland.
With 56 MPs the SNP are entitled to get two questions from a spokesman at each departmental question session whether the subject area is devolved to Holyrood or reserved to Westminster.
In her opening salvo Dr Whitford asked: “How does the Secretary of State intend to fund 5,000 GPs when many surgeries across the UK can’t fill the spaces they have got already?”
Mr Hunt responded: “We need to fund these extra places and not stand still.”
He said that there would be further recruitment and training to fill places.
Dr Whitford pointed out that it takes 10 years to train a doctor.
She added that the £8 billion of extra spending promised in the Tory manifesto was “just to stand still not to fund a huge expansion.”
She asked: “What extra funding can we expect in the next two years?”
However, Mr Hunt hit back, saying that under the current Tory government and the previous coalition “there was a proportionate increase in health spending” while under the SNP “there was a decrease in the proportion of money going to health spending in Scotland.”