Let’s have a heated debate… on everything except Scotland’s beleaguered NHS

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I AM a GP in Midlothian. I took time off from a beleaguered practice on a busy day to attend Thursday’s leaders’ debate. The organisers knew exactly what all members of their audience do and what made them apply to come.

Health was never even discussed! We had 25 minutes on tax; ten minutes on welfare ; ten minutes on education… by then I could see we were running out of time and had my hand up to bring in health; eight minutes on fracking during which time I managed to be invited to ask a question. I immediately declared that I wanted to bring up the nation’s health and not fracking but was ignored. I retorted that it was ridiculous to have an hour-long debate and not bring up health. I was ignored. We had an amusing 4-5 minutes on the leaders’ responses to a phone call from Donald Trump and the event was over. What a waste of my time!

I am ashamed of our BBC. Is this why GPs in Scotland have found it so hard to be heard in the last 3-5 years? No wonder the general public is at its wit’s end when trying to get GP appointments. My profession has been starved of funds under the SNP. It is falling apart and half the public don’t realise it. Our excellent Royal College of General Practice in Scotland has been working so hard to put its case and been ignored for so long.

Finally last week there was an announcement of a bit of extra funding coming our way. It is purely SNP “window-dressing” with the election pending. Do people know that there are several Scottish GP practices being run by health boards because they have fallen apart with no one applying to work at them?

I despair of this government and now of the BBC for not giving us a fair hearing.

(DR) Claire Walker


A remarkable feature of Thursday evening’s televised leaders’ debate (The Scotsman, 25 March) was the absence of any discussion about Scotland’s constitution. I confess I had tuned in expecting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to be confronted at some point. It might have taken the form of a dramatic “Can you give the country an assurance that you will not seek a referendum in the course of the next parliament if elected”. But either no member of the studio audience wanted to ask such a question, or the broadcasters felt it was not topical enough to be included, or the participants were not suave enough to make the point in a telling way. Whatever the reason, it may provide a pointer to the way politics north of the Border will be conducted in the next ten years or so.

It may well be that the political parties have reached a subtle, unwritten by significant consensus. It will centre on the idea that the public want to see how the new powers contained in the Scotland Act will work. This need not entail just laborious discussion about who will or will not raise or lower tax rates. It can revolve around economic regeneration, childcare, change in the health and education sectors, transport, the environment. A core belief among gradualists in the SNP is that voters want to see how existing powers will work, and will then yearn for their extension.

The first debate of the 2016 Holyrood election may not have been the most gripping. But it may well signal a new stage in the development of devolution which brings political discourse much closer to the needs of ordinary people.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court, Glenrothes

Having watched the first “leaders debate” I have observed that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s position on the issue of a 50p tax rate for the highest earners has changed from being “daft” at her last FMQ to “daft for the next couple of years” when a camera was pointed at her on primetime telly. I can only assume that in the intervening 24 hours or so her little yellow minions must have told her that Labour’s fair tax plan is actually popular with a lot of voters.

(Dr) SJ Clark

Easter Road, Edinburgh