Covid Scotland: Humza Yousaf will not give backing to key UK Government legislation

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has insisted he cannot give his backing to key legislation being brought forward by the UK Government in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Yousaf claimed that parts of Westminster’s Health and Care Bill simply “ignore the reality of a separate NHS in Scotland”.

This, he warned, could allow ministers south of the Border to “treat the health service across the whole of the UK as a single unitary entity”, with the Scottish health secretary insisting that this was “unacceptable”.

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Health secretary Humza Yousaf looks on as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks. Picture: Fraser Bremner

Mr Yousaf is due to hold talks on the proposed legislation with UK health minister Edward Argar on Wednesday.

But he stressed that as it stands, he cannot recommend that MSPs grant their consent to the legislation.

Under the terms of the devolution settlement, the UK Government needs the consent of Holyrood when legislation affects devolved areas.

And Mr Yousaf said some parts of the bill would affect Scotland.

Speaking to MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf said he had “recommended that Parliament should not grant legislative consent to the bill as it currently stands”.

He said if the bill was passed without being changed it would mean “the UK Secretary of State would be granted powers to act in Scotland without having to seek consent of Scottish ministers, even when the actions taken will impact upon the delivery of healthcare, which is of course the responsibility of Scottish ministers”.

Mr Yousaf continued: “Some provisions ignore the reality of a separate NHS in Scotland and could, if unchallenged, enable the Secretary of State to treat the NHS across the UK as a single unitary entity. That is unacceptable.”

Speaking before Wednesday’s talks, the Scottish health secretary said: “I would hope to see some movement from the UK Government tomorrow.

“But until I see willingness to respect the devolution settlement I am not in a position to change my recommendation to withhold legislative consent.”

The UK Government says the reforms in the legislation are “vital to help the NHS build back better from the pandemic”.

The bill will ensure each part of England has bodies that bring together local NHS services with areas such as social care and public health advice, and also aims to make NHS procurement practices less bureaucratic.

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