The Scottish Tories have joined the SNP in praising how the Scandinavians do things, praising Norway’s health and social care system.
For decades, Scottish Nationalists have looked longingly across the North Sea to our neighbours in Scandinavia.
With a population of just over five million, Norway has demonstrated that an independent, Scotland-sized nation is not only viable but can be both wealthy and happy. Its economy is among the best in the world, judging by GDP per capita, with well-funded public services paid for by high rates of tax.
This latter aspect of Nordic life has meant it has largely been attractive as a model for society to those on the left of politics.
However, writing in The Scotsman today, Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservatives’ Shadow Health Secretary, says he found himself “full of envy” of Norway’s health and community care system and criticises the SNP for cutting hospital beds social care places.
An unexpected consensus appears to have emerged about the merits of at least some aspects of life in Norway.
But the country offers two contrasting ways of paying for its health service. On one hand, it has the 11th highest taxes out of 35 OECD countries – tax revenue is 38 per cent of its GDP, compared to 33 per cent in the UK. On the other, adults also pay an average of £180 a year as a contribution towards the cost of their state-run health service.
For the SNP and Scottish Labour, Norway shows that if you want good public services, you have to raise enough tax to pay for them; Health Secretary Shona Robison urged Mr Briggs to explain his support for public spending cuts.
Others might suggest bringing in an extra charge to fund the health service is the lesson to learn.
In these straightened times, few of us want to pay more for anything, but the NHS could be an exception. However, do we trust politicians to spend our money wisely?
Perhaps one solution is to remove health from general taxation and pay for it with a dedicated health tax. With different rates to reflect ability to pay, this would allow everyone to see how much the NHS costs and make better-informed decisions about whether it needs more funds.
That way we might just discover how good and how much value for money our health service really is.
Afterall, the NHS was recently rated as the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system out of 11 leading countries, beating the US, France, Germany – and Norway.