Labour called on to back constitutional protection for NHS after Yes


  By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish Labour party is being urged to support plans to protect the Scottish NHS from privatisation through a written constitution, if Scots vote Yes in the referendum.
In a letter to Johann Lamont, SNP MSP Dr Aileen McLeod has urged the Scottish Labour party leader to take advantage of what will be her party’s role in helping to draft Scotland’s constitution after a Yes vote.

Dr McLeod said Ms Lamont should be making clear her commitment to guaranteeing a national health service free at the point of need for people across Scotland.

In the letter the SNP MSP wrote: “While I understand and accept that our views differ on the independence referendum, I would hope that after a Yes vote we can come together and agree that our health service must continue to be publicly owned and free at the point of need – and that this basic principle should be enshrined in our country’s written constitution.

The MSP added: “I trust that you are able to agree with this proposal.  Indeed, I think that working together to guarantee the future of a publicly funded NHS is exactly what members and supporters of both our parties would expect of us.”

Earlier this week, First Minister Alex Salmond announced the intention to enshrine Bevan’s founding principles of the NHS in Scotland’s written constitution after a Yes vote.  The move followed on from senior Labour figures such as Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham and Labour’s Minister for Health and Social Care in the Welsh Government warning of the impact of Westminster’s privatisation agenda.

Accusations from Scottish Labour figures that concern for the Scottish NHS expressed by Alex Salmond was a ‘big lie’ were called into question when it emerged they themselves had made the same claims in 2010.

The Scottish Labour Party’s 2010 General Election Broadcast warned that a Westminster Tory government has and would cut Scotland’s health spending and that this is a ‘risk’ that Scotland faces. The broadcast states:
“They [the Tories] starved our schools and hospitals of funding and there’s a real risk they’d do the same again”.

“They wouldn’t fight for the NHS, they call it a 60 year mistake.”

“The Tories would … slash funding for schools and hospitals … The Tories haven’t changed.”

Clip from Labour’s 2010 campaign video

The official No campaign is now arguing that there would be no impact on Scotland’s schools and hospitals from Westminster Tory policies, including the ongoing privatisation of the English NHS.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s current affairs programme Scotland 2014, Labour MSP Neil Findlay called concerns for the Scottish NHS “the biggest lie of the referendum campaign” and said the Tories had “protected” the NHS budget south of the border.

However Mr Findlay’s comments have already been contradicted by Labour Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham who has warned that, if the situation in England continues then there will not be an NHS in five years time.

It also emerged that Labour party leader Ed Miliband himself has already warned publicly that the Conservatives could destroy the NHS in England within five years.

“I believe the NHS will look unrecognisable if they [the Conservatives] have another five years.” said the Labour leader at a recent event.|300|300{/youtube}

Commenting, Dr McLeod said:

“While everyone in Scotland understands that the SNP and the Labour party leadership have different opinions on the constitution, people would expect both parties to be able to unite around the basic principle that Scotland’s health service should be free at the point of need.

“After a Yes vote, the Labour party will be one of many voices shaping Scotland’s written constitution – and the chance to enshrine Bevan’s founding principles for our health service in law will be looked on as a massive opportunity by many Labour members and supporters.

“Andy Burnham has stated that Westminster’s policies will destroy everything precious about the NHS – and Labour’s Health Minister in Wales has warned of the impact on devolved budgets.  The opportunity to protect our health budget from these disastrous policies is too important to pass up.

“Whatever our views on the referendum, it’s clear that when it comes to the NHS, there is a different mindset in Scottish politics compared to Westminster.

“I’d hope that after a Yes vote, Johann Lamont and the Labour Party will be arguing alongside the SNP for the right to free health care to be enshrined in our constitution.

“Johann Lamont should make her support for enshrining the position of the NHS in our constitution clear now, rather than being forced into the uncomfortable position of defending the disastrous privatisation policies of her Tory allies in the No campaign.”