Scotland’s NHS has never been the SNP’s priority - Brian Monteith

“These things happen” is a phrase that is going to haunt Nicola Sturgeon. Speaking about how the Twitter output of Janey Godley was so “horrifically despicable” she had to be removed from Scottish Government public information material, the First Minister casually implied the problem could not be foreseen.

Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish Parliament

It was rather like, when answering how the Scottish drug abuse death rate had become the worst in Europe, the First Minister said, “we took our eye off the ball.” Again, it was as if it was a mere accident or lack of focus.

The truth in both cases is very different. Sturgeon and her coterie could not fail to know of Godley’s diatribes – the First Minister has advisers for every possible occasion including those who work on Tweets and other social media. To borrow from a much used hashtag, I believe “Nicola knew”.

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Promoting public health had nothing to do with Godley’s engagement, she had become the go-to communicator for the SNP – a loyal adherent whose form of puerile humour and toilet language represented a twisted view of how ordinary people converse.

Likewise, the First Minister did not lose sight of the ball on drug addiction; the SNP intentionally made cuts to drug rehabilitation – despite repeated warnings of the consequences to real people who were suffering and needed help.

The reality is the SNP has a very loose association with not only the truth but also with the special care our NHS demands. It is the largest employer in Scotland; it is wholly the responsibility of Scottish Government ministers; it has the greatest direct impact on ordinary Scots – and at many levels it has been badly neglected to the point of abdication of a duty of care.

The SNP’s trick has been to blame anyone and everyone else, but especially the British Government while claiming it has been protecting the NHS from the ravishes of public sector austerity – while syphoning funds away from our national lifeline service in favour of other non-health related hobby-horses, such as embassies abroad or (not) building ferries.

So beware SNP politicians speaking with forked tongue. They will want to give the impression that Covid has wreaked havoc in an NHS that was coping admirably with the demands placed upon it, but this not true. Let us recall that before the pandemic the number of people parked on the waiting lists was already a staggering 450,000 – that the number of consultant vacancies was approaching 500 and 4,000 nursing posts were unfilled. How could this be when former health Secretary of four years and then First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has repeatedly told us the NHS was being starved of money because of London, Westminster or Tory austerity?

Well, there is a reason, and it’s quite a simple one that the SNP don’t want you to know about – over the period of its 14 year imperious reign the SNP Government has been taking funds that should have gone to the NHS and redirected it towards other departments and pet nationalist projects.

In 2007/08 healthcare was 16.02 per cent of total Scottish Government spending; by 2019 it had risen to 16.71 per cent. Impressive? Not really when you find that healthcare rose from a lower 15.09 per cent of total English spending to a far higher 18.86 per cent. Scotland’s funding increase did not keep pace because the SNP redirected funds away from the NHS passed on by the Tories. The real terms English NHS spending increase since 2007 is 25 per cent, Scotland's is 10.8 per cent.

The NHS waiting list is now 600,000 – a climb of an additional 150,000 souls who will be praying they receive their promised treatment before it is too late – and yet even now the SNP is planning to redirect more money away from the NHS towards other priorities.

Boris Johnson’s announcement of an increase in National Insurance contributions of around 10 per cent is justified as being necessary to clear the NHS backlog in England and pay for new English social care provision. England’s NHS spending uplift will provide a corresponding proportional sum for the SNP-Green Government to spend on Scottish healthcare. It should come as no shock the Finance Minister Kate Forbes has said it should not be ring-fenced so only the NHS benefits – she has other ideas where it might go and cutting the waiting lists is clearly not her priority.

Similarly, Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford alleged Scots will now pay more for care on English spending they do not need – the SNP then voted against the increase. This wilfully ignored that since 2002 English taxpayers have paid towards free personal care in Scotland that they themselves cannot obtain locally.

Instead of focusing on Covid recovery Nicola Sturgeon wants her civil servants to waste their time and taxpayers’ money on writing up a proposal explaining what an independent Scotland will look like – hardly a priority for the majority of Scots. She is wanting to direct money towards finding alternative jobs to replace those working in Aberdeen’s oil and gas sectors instead of supporting the exploitation of reserves that would revive the economy and bring badly needed prosperity to Scotland. The pretence that leaving the reserves in the ground will save the earth is a delusion – the slack will be taken up by other nations.

Despite the self-serving and delusional claims the SNP leader has had a “better pandemic” than other political rivals, Scotland has more than half of the top 10 Covid hotspots in Europe per 100,000 of population – an astonishing 11 out of 20, when England has none – which suggests the pandemic’s impact on the NHS will only get worse than it already is and result in further dangerous delays of treatment for those with other illnesses.

These things don’t just happen First Minister.

Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org and served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively

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