Lib Dem Willie Rennie makes £800m NHS vow

Rennie said the SNP 'have their eye off the ball' regarding the health service. Picture: PA
Rennie said the SNP 'have their eye off the ball' regarding the health service. Picture: PA
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About £800 million a year of extra health spending would come to Scotland under Liberal Democrat plans, the party’s Scottish leader Willie Rennie revealed yesterday.

And he told conference delegates in a keynote speech in Aberdeen yesterday that the party was ready to stand on its record in government of lower taxes and a growing economy.

His pledge came as former UK leader of the party, Lord Steel, warned there was no appetite for another post-election power-sharing Coalition after the Lib Dems’ popularity nose-dived during their period in office with the Tories.

Rennie said yesterday that the health service “went into crisis” as the SNP focused on the referendum campaign.

“Cancer waiting times were missed,” he said.

“Accident and emergency waiting times were missed. Patients were stuck in hospital when they should be cared for at home.

“Thousands of patients have been waiting. It is clear SNP ministers still have their eye off the ball.”

The Lib Dems are the only party with “a fully costed plan” to increase NHS spending across the UK, Rennie added.

He said health service leaders in England have identified that the NHS there needs £8bn in funding above in­flation by 2020 and the party has agreed to meet this UK-wide.

The Scottish leader added: “I can tell you that the Liberal Democrat plan will mean £800m a year above inflation for the Scottish NHS. It means we can tackle the crisis in accident and emergency departments.

“We can provide more beds to improve treatment and help staff do their job so brilliantly.”

He added: “We have put investment in the health service on the front page of our manifesto.”

Rennie also warned delegates to be ready for attempts to “run us down” during the election over their record in office with the Tories.

“When people say they don’t know what we have done in government you will know what to say,” he added.

“When someone is undecided, you will know what to say – taxes down, pensions up, more jobs, better healthcare, stronger Scotland.”

Lord Steel warned that the Lib Dem rank-and-file will not want to join another coalition even if they hold the balance of power after the election. “I’m pretty certain that the mood in the party will be to say the very most we would accept would be confidence and supply,” he said.

“I just detect that there’s a general feeling that we need to recharge our batteries and recharge our values, and that association with another party is not the way to do it.”

The peer added: “I don’t think there will be a mood in the party to go into another coalition with either party.

“What’s more, I think in the other two parties, if you examine what’s happened, a lot of David Cameron’s Tories want a Tory-only government, even if it’s a minority one, and similarly on the Labour side.

“So I suspect if you have to look into the crystal ball, that we’re going to get a minority government which will have a multitude of minorities in the parliament, which is something new, and they’ll be able to play one off against the other. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t succeed.”