By a Newsnet reporter
Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been branded a “total hypocrite” after comments he made on the Scottish NHS in which he claimed the Scottish Government was lying about the threat to the NHS of creeping privatisation in England.
Yesterday Mr Brown, who has taken control of the Better Together campaign, launched an attack on the SNP and demanded they “make way” for Labour who he said would protect the Scottish NHS.
Speaking in front of supporters, he said: “The NHS lie of the Scottish National Party has been exposed.
“The Scottish Parliament can keep the NHS in public hands with its existing powers.”
He added: “If the SNP continue to say they are powerless to protect the NHS in Scotland, let them make way for a Labour government in Scotland and we will protect the NHS.”
However, one of Scotland’s leading health figures has launched a searing attack on the former Labour leader accusing him of cynically manipulating the situation of the Scottish health service.
Retired consultant Dr George Venters – a former Chairman of the Scottish Health Campaigns Network which lobbies for a public NHS – accused Brown of deliberately helping to put the Scottish NHS in financial difficulties.
Dr Venters explained that the former Chancellor and Prime Minister was an enthusiastic advocate of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) programme. Under Labour, PFI allowed firms to tie local authorities into deals which ensured public cash was paid in the style of a mortgage – sometimes for decades – ensuring a massive profit for private companies.
This controversial financial model was used to build hospitals such as the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and is still costing Scottish taxpayers tens of millions of pounds.
Dr Venters said: “Gordon Brown is guilty of hypocritical and cynical manipulation of the Scottish NHS. I, along with others, believe he was instrumental in the introduction of the PFI programme which has become such a millstone around the neck of the health service.
“We knew it was a nonsense at the time – Gordon Brown’s track record on this just beggars belief. The PFI programme is hugely expensive, though of course it’s very profitable for the banks.
“When I heard his comments today about promoting a public NHS, I just thought he was a total hypocrite.”
The issue of the NHS has remained at the centre of the independence debate with the Yes campaign insisting the privatisation agenda being pursued south of the border, by both Labour and the Conservatives, will lead to cuts to Scotland’s NHS and threaten the public nature of the service.
The claim has been challenged by the Labour party with senior figures in Scotland claiming that devolution allows the Scottish NHS to remain protected and that privatisation cannot be forced upon the Scottish Government.
However the claim has been called into question with fifty one medical experts recently submitting an article to medical journal The Lancet, highlighting the threat to the Scottish NHS of remaining in the Union.
According to the experts, a controversial system called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which was recently agreed by the UK Government, will inevitably lead to the privatisation of the Scottish Health Service.
TTIP is the result of long-running negotiations between the EU and the US over trade liberalisation. One of its fundamental principles is that services, including state services, should be open to private competition from American multinationals.
In their submission to the Lancet, the experts write:
“The Scottish NHS would inevitably be drawn into TTIP and privatisation, because the TTIP agreement is with the UK Government in Westminster. There is no opt-out possible for the currently devolved Scottish NHS.”
They add: “… Westminster has not thought about implications for NHS Scotland and the devolved health administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, or has considered TTIP a covert vehicle for forcing the privatisation agenda.
“The NHS in Scotland is now very different from that in the rest of the UK. It is increasingly under threat because of funding cuts from Westminster.
“The plan for the UK to enter TTIP, without an opt-out clause for NHS Scotland, is symptomatic of the way Scotland has been treated in general, and an even more potent reason for Scottish people to be able to elect governments with full economic and bargaining powers through independence.”
Last month, Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron warning TTIP could be used by companies to force governments to open up their health services to privatisation.
She said: “TTIP would let companies sue if national governments pass laws that hurt profits.
“This is bad news for our existing public services, such as the NHS, or other services we may wish to take back into public ownership, such as the railways.
“This is because private companies already run certain services but under the new plans the Government would never be allowed to run these services again because doing so would hurt the profits of the companies involved.”