Scottish Labour health spokesperon calls for an end to free prescriptions


By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Labour party has given the clearest signal yet that it intends to end universal free prescriptions.

Speaking in an interview on STV’s Scotland Tonight, Johann Lamont’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie revealed that she wanted to re-introduce prescription charges.

Questioned on whether she wanted to keep free prescriptions, Ms Baillie replied “No”.

She added “I think there are a category of people who earn a great deal of money, who could afford to pay for free prescriptions. […] universal free prescriptions I think should be reviewed.  I think there are better things we could do with the money.”

The Scottish Labour Health spokesperson’s admission on Thursday evening follows threats by her leader Johann Lamont to end universal benefits and bring in means testing.

The stance adopted by Labour in Scotland is at odds with the party’s pledge in Wales where Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones has said Welsh Labour will keep free prescriptions for all.  Ms Baillie’s views also clash with those of her front bench colleague Kezia Dugdale who has publicly given her support to universal free prescriptions.

Scottish Labour’s stance has been welcomed by the Conservatives in Wales and Scotland who also back the scrapping of free prescriptions.

Commenting, SNP MSP Mark Mcdonald, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, said:

“Jackie Baillie should be ashamed of herself.  As the Labour spokesperson on health, who even tried to claim the abolition of prescription charges as a Labour victory, she knows how unfair this tax on ill-health is on sick people.

“Prescription charges in England are £7.65 per prescription per person – how does Labour think that helps people in this tough economic climate?

“While Ms Baillie opposes free prescriptions, her colleagues in Wales know the benefits of the policy and are clearly not in thrall to the party leadership in London like Labour in Scotland is.

“If she and the Labour Party got their way in abolishing free prescriptions, what would the next policy be, where would they draw the line?

“Until they were abolished last year by the SNP, 600,000 people across Scotland with an income as little as £16,000 were charged for their prescriptions when they became ill.

“These people welcome the extra money in their pockets from not having to pay for prescriptions – they shouldn’t need to fear becoming ill.

“The Labour leadership in Scotland have lost their way, having turned into cheerleaders for Osborne’s austerity agenda, instead of looking for ways to protect hard-pressed families and vulnerable people. The SNP is the only party in Scotland committed to healthcare free at the point of need.”

1) Transcript of Scotland Tonight:

Host: Jackie Baillie, you’ve called for a review of these universal benefits, what are your views on them at the moment, on free prescriptions for instance, what are your views?

JB: On free prescriptions, I’m very clear. If- you know we are seeing the advent of food banks coming back to our towns and cities, then-

Host: So you want free prescriptions?
JB: No. As long as food banks are coming back, you know we have a real issue-

Host: -you want free prescriptions scrapped then? What’s your view, because you are the health spokesperson-
JB: -Absolutely, I think there are a category of people who earn a great deal of money, who could afford to pay for free prescriptions.

Host: So you want free prescriptions scrapped?
JB: I would like to see prescriptions protected for those- as they were before- children, older people-

Host: So you want free prescriptions scrapped, let’s just be clear on that.
JB: Oh yes, universal free prescriptions I think should be reviewed.  I think there are better things we could do with the money.


  1. JB: -Absolutely, I think there are a category of people who earn a great deal of money, who could afford to pay for free prescriptions.

    How can you pay for free prescriptions?

    • So Zorba! for three or four people you want to set up a lot of paper work and another batch of civil servants to check the prescriptions? Remember most who can afford all these things have private health insurance,and DON’T claim “FREE” prescriptions,paid in advance by my NI,and 45 years of taxes.

  2. Zorb, You can buy free prescriptions under Labour in the same way you can buy free honours/knighthoods. Donations to the Labour party.

    There are a lot of people who could afford to buy an ambulance to pick them off the road in the event of an accident but they are ENTITLED to the same service as the rest of us!

    There are a lot of Labour party donors who could afford to pay for their own Open-heart surgery but they are ENTITLED to the same service as the rest of us!

    there are a lot of Trades Unionists who could afford to pay for their Hospital Hotel services but they are ENTITLED to the same service as the rest of us!

    there are a lot of Labour Lords, MPs & MSPs who could afford to buy their prescriptions, train tickets and Flights to the shadow Cabinet office in London so they could make an example but they won’t because this new labour policy is all about [b]I’m all right Jack, stuff the poor who can crawl, grovel, beg and bow for my charity pennies![/b]

    I too am furious at Labour’s absence of a social conscience. Hearing Labour & Tory MSPs moaning about the Scottish government’s refusal in not demanding the poor beg louder for their meagre benefits is leading to cuts in house building, dental care and education all which they slashed whilst they were in power.

  3. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Labour in Scotland have given up any pretence that they have separate and distinctive Scottish policies. They now join Milliband in a rush to adopt as many Tory policies as possible so as to appeal to conservative ‘middle England’. Ever since Blair this has been the Labour mantra – ‘We’re not popular enough?. Then we need to move further to the right’. They don’t even seem to realise that this is a gift to the SNP. The lack of political acumen in the ‘Scottish’ Labour party is truly awe inspiring.

  4. The only reason that these odious people get publicity is because of the anti Scottish media in our country who will print and broadcast anything which denigrates Scotland.

  5. Labour in Scotland strives to reduce the people in Scotland to THESE England experiences.READ IT PLEASE.
    [b]per item![/b]
    “An Ipsos Mori survey found that 800,000 people failed to collect a prescription during 2007 because of the cost.”

    In my opinion the costs of administering such a scheme would far outweigh the small financial benefits.
    Labour in Scotland are now singing from the same song sheet as Labour UK, Milliband and Balls.
    Our Lamont and Bailey are toeing the Westminster line,not the one for working folks in Scotland.
    [b]Now all is well in New OneNation Labour UK. [Blairism by any other name].

    • [quote name=”Dundonian West”]
      “An Ipsos Mori survey found that 800,000 people failed to collect a prescription during 2007 because of the cost.”

      this is very true and I have been in that position myself. When the choice came down to food for the weans or pills for me, the food won.

  6. Saw Reporting Scotland last night, where they repeated some of Raymond Buchanan’s interview with Robert Black, and sneaked in a couple of more interviews with well-to-do pensioners who said that Scotland couldn’t afford free bus travel for pensioners and that they would be quite willing to pay 50p per journey. A pure and utter setup, trying to thrust this new mantra down the throats of the people of Scotland that universal benefits are unaffordable without any debate and without any right of reply from anyone opposed to the BBC’s point of view.

    Sorry, I forgot, the BBC doesn’t have a point of view.

  7. Jackie Bailley said:

    “ [i]Universal free prescriptions I think should be reviewed. I think there are better things we could do with the money.[/i] “

    Oh I am sure that NuLabour will easily find some blackhole to pour our dosh into… NHS IT… ID Cards… PFI schemes… personal advancement… illegal war… I could could go on but I think you get my drift.

  8. How much will it cost to collect, how much collected would then be available for spending ?, less than 50% going by the last published accounts, spend a pound to save a pound. Why settle for a token £7.95, why not ask those who can afford to pay, pay the thousands of pounds modern drugs cost, surely everything is on the table, except the principles of the Labour party, they are long gone.

  9. My wife worked as a receptionist in our local doctor’s surgery during the last period of prescription charging. People who had been to see the doctor and were prescribed more than one item often asked her which was the most important because they could only afford to pay for one.

    And this is what the obnoxious Bailie wants us to go back to?

    It would be interesting to know what level of income she thinks you need to be able to afford to pay (or would it be only those on benefits excluded) and how many people would be needed to run the means testing.

  10. Nobody disrespects Don Rennieoni!


  11. I dread the day when prescription charges are re-introduced by Scottish Labour. Back to the bad old days of having to decide which of the prescribed drugs to pay for, and which to do without, out of my wife’s daily regime of 7 drugs and treatments, some of which are intended to prevent her medical conditions worsening.

    It would be a terrible backward step, and Scottish Labour should be ashamed of even suggesting the return of prescription charges. What next, get us all to pay for hospital treatment? Many drugs are prescribed to help prevent a condition getting worse, so making people pay for their prescriptions will only result in higher hospital admissions in the long term.

    • Hear, Hear tarbat, very well put and very pertinent to the situation some of us find ourselves in. What a ghastly place to be.

  12. Hang on “Better things to do with the money.”

    From the stats I have seen introducing means testing wouldn’t save very much but would employ a pile of civil servents.

    So the bulk of the money “saved” would go on employing civil servents…Ah yeah labour loves a big state. The nats quietly trimming it back must be begining to noticed now.

  13. Could this desire to regress back to the dark ages a means of appeasing the English voters who think the Scots are getting something they are not. Easier to take away from the Jocks than to improve the NHS in England

    • [quote name=”nchanter”]Could this desire to regress back to the dark ages……….Easier to take away from the Jocks than to improve the NHS in England[/quote]

      I think you have hit the nail on the head. The English NHS is going to be market driven if they are not careful. Remember the NHS Dentists? And that was under the Blair government!
      So if Scots do not want it then Lamont and their undermining of the devolution process needs to be seen what it is, an unashamed roll back of what it was all about, Scottish solutions for Scottish problems.

      She has no shame.

  14. No-one from Labour has spelt out a ballpark figure of when universal benefits would stop, is it £50k £80k £150k? is it not a fact that there becomes quite a low cut off point when administration costs make it more expensive to collect than provide free. It has also been established that some people will not collect their medication if it is to expensive, which in turn prevents them from getting better and can lead to more serious and expensive health problems. This is a typical case that the Scottish Government has implemented a popular policy so with the help of the MSM Labour will seek to undermine it

  15. Theres 2 Labour ex PM’s who can afford to pay for their own security yet use the police that are assigned to them despite making millions every year.

  16. Well ladies & gentlemen we now know what the choices are in 2014 .
    (1) Do we still want a country that has a social conscience and believes in social justice . or
    (2) Do we let labour ably assisted by their friends in the M.S.M take us down the right wing path where certain sections of society are demonised at the expense of others ?
    We all know what happened in a certain european country in the 30,s that went down the right wing path by demonising sections of society .
    Make no bones about it the fight in 2014 is about the very soul of Scotland . If we lose this fight Scotland as a country will cease to exist . The right wing establishment will dismantle everything Scotland believes in piece by piece due us even daring to think that we can go our own way .

  17. Talking about free benefits, MP’s take the cake. They claim EVERYTHING the can, it is all part of the Westminster gravy train the EXPECT.

    REMEMBER, even good ol boy, Vince cable still takes his £200 winter fuel allowance, how greedy is that!

    Jim Murphy had a £1m overhaul of his offices, it just goes on and on.

    No end to freebies and “expenses” for those who consider themselves the Elite without foundation.

    If all this stuff was stopped, there would be more money for the people to dispense as they see fit.

    Also, please don’t get me started on how much is spent on London, no shortages there.

  18. I don’t understand what is so difficult for the labour party to work out.
    if we had not made all scripts free at point of delivery ,they would be complaining about the SNP wasting precious resources.
    the cost of running the prescription system as it was and the policing of the system cost far more than the income received.
    this is because we are a small nation with the economics working differently to that of our neighbours who happen to be 10 times bigger in population than ourselves
    so apart from having to choose which part of a prescription you can afford ,
    before this policy was adopted we had GP’s and district nurses having to ask families to pay for prescriptions for their dying relatives palliative care at it’s best NOT!!

  19. Free NHS prescriptions cost £57 million a year, means testing 20% of these prescriptions costs £30 million a year, costing us a total £75.6 million a year.

    How many nurses would we have to fire to pay for the administrators? Lets find out, the average NHS nurse costs the NHS £212 a day apparently in wages and resources, thats £55,332 per nurse per year (minus weekends).

    £18.6 million / 55,332 = 336 nurses approximately. There are apparently 56,183 nurses in Scotland, so we would have to be sacking approx 0.6% of all nurses in Scotland to pay for enforcing 20% of people in Scotland to pay for prescriptions, idiocy doesnt even come close.

    • Would be nice if they paid us nurses that amount -lol

      I am a nurse and due to being used as a guinea pig by MOD and Westminster I am on a cocktail of 10 different medicines per day. My wife is on 4 different ones per day. So according to Bailie we would have to fork out, at worst, £105 approx. That is before I pay my mortgage which is about 400. I spend 450 on fuel. My wife cannot work. I have 3 kids one of whom is at college. Food is 100 per week with electric at 25 weekly. Council tax at 90 a month. My wages do not cover the outgoings listed and we use my wife’s DLA and child benefit to make up the shortfall.
      And the Tories forced the SNP to freeze the wages to pay for the fraud of the rich.

      This is not meant to be a sob story but points to the real problems of real people. The people that labour have forgotten about.

      Is it any wonder that all in my household have a lot to thank the SNP for.
      This is one household who is voting YES in 2014. I want a better Scotland for my patients. For my children and grandchildren(if my young kids ever have any kids of their own) and finally for myself and fellow citizens of Scotland

      • Yeah totally agree, the majority of the money per head goes on resources like electricity, admin and required work equipment rather than base wage, nurses are not paid anywhere near the amount that they are due for what is an extremely demanding job and one which is utterly essential for our society to function.

  20. One small point, how many of these so called “rich” people actually go to an nhs doctor to receive a prescription? and those who need anything available over the counter, will go to a chemist and buy it (or have some one go for it) rather than go to a doctors surgery, but that point is irrelevant when compared with the fact that the better off you are, the more tax you pay, but you do not get any more of the share in public services than an unemployed person, or a disabled person, and generally speaking, you will use far less public services than the less fortunate anyway, this is just another stab in the governments back for actually having the nerve to follow and obey the will of the people instead of the London puppet masters, oh, yeah I forgot, SNP have no London masters!

  21. Can’t Lamont and her unionist fellow travellers acknowlege that if Scotland had full control over its resources and subsequent tax revenues, John Swinney would have much more than the block grant pocket money necessary to fund the “free” prescriptions, health care, uni and college fees, council tax subsidies, etc.?

    Answer – of course they can. They just won’t admit it, aided of course by their allies in the BBC and press, north and south of the border. The news that Lamont is now being invited to attend shadow cabinet meetings under “Tory One Nation Milliband” explains her recent conversion to means testing and the abandonment of the last vestiges of Labou’s “Party of the People” posturing.

  22. Lets see these self serving politicians lead by example and pay for their own accommodation, food, laptops, ipads, apple phones, blacknberrys, TV sets, and all the other little trinkets they get for nothing from us tax paying mugs. Perhaps Murphy will lead the charge as he is the most enthusiastic user of the expenses forms. Time to walk the walk.

  23. What happened to the debate the Lamont said she wanted? All I see here is a done deal.

    Ballie talks about people who earn a great deal of money who can afford to pay for prescriptions, but I earn less than £20,000 per year and still had to pay for the medication I need for the two long term illnesses I suffer from.


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