Devolution alone cannot protect Scottish NHS from Tories says leading union


  By Martin Kelly
A leading trade union has warned that devolution alone cannot protect the Scottish NHS from the Conservative’s privatisation agenda currently being implemented in the health service south of the border.
Unison has said cutbacks to the English health service will eventually hit Scotland’s own health budget.

On its official website, the trade union says: “Devolution means they can’t run down and privatise our NHS directly, the way they are doing in England. But what they can do is starve it of resources. They are cutting back on the money provided to the Scottish Government and this puts the health budget under pressure.”

The union claims that in the last few weeks, the health service in England has suffered from understaffing and other cuts stemming from managers having to meet targets.

According to Unison, the NHS is under threat from privatisation and cuts.  It lists the following examples:

  •     The Tory health act has pushed the profit motive to the heart of the English NHS.
  •     Key treatments are being restricted, services cut and jobs lost, resulting in increased waiting times, delays and staff shortages on our wards.
  •     Restricted funding settlements are also affecting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The union adds: “So the Tories aren’t just attacking the NHS in England – they are attacking it everywhere. Everyone who wants to maintain the fairest and most cost-effective health service in the world needs to be part of the fight to defend the NHS.”

The stark warning from the trade union echoes similar claims from the Yes campaign which is urging Scottish voters to back a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum in order to protect the NHS.

The issue is dominating the debate over Scottish independence and has led to an unexpected alliance between Labour and the Conservatives over the health service.

The Scottish Labour party has stepped in to defend the Conservatives handling of the NHS, with Labour’s Holyrood health spokesperson Neil Findlay claiming NHS funding has been protected by the Tories.

Speaking in a Scottish Parliament debate yesterday, Findlay said claims that the Tories were a threat to the Scottish NHS was a “scandalous deceit”.

However Mr Findlay’s attack has been undermined by past comments from members of his own party with Labour MPs, prior to the referendum campaign, issuing warnings about Tory cuts to the NHS and public spending.

Commenting yesterday, NHS Yes founder-member Dr Willie Wilson said: “The No campaign has been caught out making very different claims about the NHS north and south of the Border. If even one of the NHS threats identified by UK Labour comes to pass, then Scotland’s budget will be cut. That’s bad news for the NHS in Scotland and is a risk too far for the people of Scotland.”

Last week an organised 300 mile march in support of the NHS from Jarrow to London got underway.  Marchers will walk from the North of England to the Westminster Parliament in order to highlight the threat to the NHS posed by the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition.