SNP would vote on English NHS matters - Sturgeon

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has signalled that her party is prepared to do a U-turn and vote on the English NHS in Westminster out of “enlightened self-interest”, as a major rift has opened up in the UK coalition government on the role of Scottish MPs.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says 'enlightened self-interest' was behind her decision to consider voting on English NHS laws. Picture: John Devlin
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says 'enlightened self-interest' was behind her decision to consider voting on English NHS laws. Picture: John Devlin

In an interview, Ms Sturgeon announced she wanted the SNP to abandon its self-denying policy of not voting on issues in Westminster which only apply to England because she wants to “restore” the English NHS to help protect funding in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon made it clear that she wants her party’s MPs – who could hold the balance of power after the election in May – to start voting on English matters, highlighting the NHS.

In an argument previously used by Scottish Labour, Ms Sturgeon said that the fate of the English NHS affects funding to Scotland through the Barnett formula, which meant it was important for them to abandon the policy of not voting on the English NHS.

Her argument comes as the Tories plan to include a proposal in their election manifesto to ban Scottish MPs from voting on matters which only effect England and Wales.

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Ms Sturgeon said: “The Westminster agenda of austerity, privatisation and patient charging in the NHS in England threatens to harm Scotland’s budget, on which our NHS depends.

“Therefore, SNP MPs elected in May are prepared to vote for a bill which would restore the National Health Service in England to the accountable public service it was always meant to be.”

She went on: “Such a step would be good for England by giving people their health service back – and also represent enlightened self-interest for Scotland, by protecting the Scottish budget from the cuts which English privatisation are undoubtedly paving the way for.

“We want Scotland to be fully financially autonomous, but until that is achieved, SNP MPs helping to reverse English health privatisation would be a vote in the Scottish national interest too.

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“We are taking nothing for granted and will work hard for every vote and seat, because if SNP MPs can be in a position of holding the balance of power at Westminster, we can help to further progressive politics across the UK, as well as in Scotland.”

Her comments came as Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael used a briefing with Scottish journalists in Westminster to lambast Tory Chancellor George Osborne for wanting to block Scottish MPs from some votes on the Budget and saying that a Chancellor should “not be beholden to SNP MPs”.

Mr Osborne made his intervention earlier this week when giving evidence to the Treasury selection committee, with opinion polls suggesting the SNP could hold the balance of power with more than 40 seats.

But Mr Carmichael accused him of “undermining the integrity” of the UK and the Westminster parliament.

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On Mr Osborne’s suggestion that Scottish MPs should be excluded from parts of Budget votes, he said: “The income tax for example is a shared tax and every government always approaches Budget votes as being votes of a special character and I don’t think that is going to change even after this Scotland Act.”

He also took on the Chancellor’s claim that the SNP should be prevented from deciding who the next government is if it holds the balance of power.

Mr Carmichael said: “I think anybody who is elected to the UK parliament will have the right to have a say in what the next government is and if you’re going to respect the integrity of the UK parliament – that’s what I campaigned for up to 18 September – I don’t think you can take any of that away.”