Humza Yousaf's extra £300 million for NHS suggests even he's banking on Labour general election victory – Jackie Baillie
A bit like the famous Brenda from Bristol, my reaction to the First Minister announcing a council tax freeze was “not another one”. The last time it was a stop-gap measure which lasted nine years and saw local government’s finances and services shredded.
Any move to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis might be welcome. But people won’t be fooled. There’s nothing equitable about this freeze. Humza Yousaf knows it benefits the well-off more than the poor and that it’s the least effective form of help for households.
This panicked measure by Mr Yousaf in his speech to a lacklustre SNP conference was a direct response to the drubbing his party took in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, where voters told us the cost-of-living crisis was a far greater priority than the SNP’s independence obsession.
Only people who set cryptic crosswords can explain the latest SNP position on a referendum but the council tax freeze was not explained to the councils themselves, or the Greens, the tail that usually wags the SNP government’s policies.
Perhaps Mr Yousaf felt he had to do something to reclaim the spotlight after Nicola Sturgeon stole the limelight with an unexpected appearance at conference. The former First Minister touched down in Aberdeen, “from afar” in her own words. But her presence only served to remind us that after 16 years, three First Ministers and hundreds of millions of pounds of local authority cuts, the SNP has still not abolished the council tax as they promised all that time ago.
The best Mr Yousaf can come up with is a freeze which will not be fully funded and will do nothing to halt the slashing of services. No wonder councils have rejected his plans. Like the £300 million he casually announced to reduce NHS waiting lists, there’s no explanation of where the funding will come from.
It strikes me that the SNP is now assuming a Labour general election win in its calculations. An incoming Labour government, as we heard at the party’s Liverpool conference last week, would work flat out to reduce waiting lists with funding to match. This will come with additional money for the Scottish Government to do the same. There won't be anything extra for the NHS from a Tory government so I can only assume the SNP is subtly telling people to vote Labour to deliver for the NHS.
However, some focus on NHS waiting lists really is too little, too late. It will be of cold comfort to those languishing on waiting lists for over a year for routine operations.
The NHS crisis was not just caused by the pandemic, waiting lists were creeping up long before. The staffing crisis started on Ms Sturgeon’s watch as Health Secretary and was compounded when Mr Yousaf took the role. We are now two years into an NHS recovery plan with no sign of recovery and the £300 million is not enough to correct his previous errors.
The SNP government’s incompetence and failure are letting Scotland down. Whether it's the lack of effective action on the cost-of-living crisis or the one-in-seven people on waiting lists, they are simply not good enough. That's why people are continuing to demand a change because Scotland deserves better than this.
Jackie Baillie MSP is Scottish Labour’s deputy leader
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