I try to avoid calling for resignations, but the buck must stop with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman over the problems currently affecting the NHS in Scotland, writes Brian Wilson.
In opposition, the SNP – and Nicola Sturgeon in particular – were great ones for demanding ministerial resignations even where no reasonable person could have held the minister responsible.
Needless to say, this enthusiasm evaporated the moment they controlled Holyrood. Even the most mediocre ministers – and heaven knows, there are plenty – are protected by the watchwords: “It’s always someone else’s fault.”
What caterwalling there would have been, for example, if a Labour First Minister had been caught by-passing official channels by using personal e-mail for government business. A storm of indignation would have been sustained until the miscreant was driven out. But brass neck gets you a long way in current Scottish politics.
I have always been sparing when it comes to calling for resignations – mainly because it is usually unfair and also as recognition that it should be a serious demand rather than a tactic devalued by over-use.
Against that background, I really do think Jeanne Freeman should “consider her position” as Health Secretary. In fact, it takes a fair bit of brass neck to still be there since her watch has been littered with episodes which should carry ministerial responsibility. Scotland is a small country and if half its health boards are failing, then the buck stops at the centre.
In the appalling story of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it is difficult to avoid concluding that, for months, information was withheld from grieving parents for indefensible reasons. The moment Ms Freeman knew, if not before, the parents should have been told and the wider community alerted. Where human suffering has been subordinated to political calculation, there should be no hiding place for the minister responsible. That is the test in this case.