By Martin Kelly
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been challenged to withdraw claims relating to waiting times in the Scottish NHS after official figures showed her to be wrong.
In heated exchanges during today’s First Minister’s Questions, the Labour MSP accused the SNP of having presided over the “worst ever statistics” for Accident and Emergency waiting times.
Attacking Mr Salmond over news that waiting times were worse than five years ago, the Scottish Labour leader dismissed the First Minister’s reply that things had improved in the last recorded year.
In a reference to figures for 2012 Ms Lamont said: “The improvement was against the worst ever statistics in relation to this matter.”
However, Ms Lamont’s accusation was seized on by the SNP leader who presented figures from Labour’s last term in office which were in fact poorer.
Mr Salmond gave the figures for 2012/13 and then compared them with figures from 2006/07.
He said: “Now that Johann Lamont has heard these figures, will she withdraw the suggestion that the 12-13 year was the worst ever, since clearly it wasn’t.” Mr Salmond added that the figures were “substantially better” than in 2006/07 when Ms Lamont was heraslf in office.
Commenting on the Scottish Labour leader’s suggestion that the latest figures were an indication of an NHS in “crisis”, Mr Salmond reminded his Labour opponent that in the year 2006/07 when Labour were in power and the four hour waiting time had been met in only 87.5% of cases, her own party colleague had praised the figure as evidence that investment in the NHS “was paying off”.
However, despite being presented with figures that her accusation was wrong, the Scottish Labour leader refused to withdraw the claim.
The incident is not the first involving a senior Labour MSP and false claims relating to the Scottish NHS.
In 2012 the party’s then spokesperson on health, Jackie Baillie, falsely claimed Scotland was the “superbug capital of Europe”. The Labour MSP said new figures published by her party showed Scotland topped a European league table of healthcare associated infections.
She said: “Being the superbug capital of Europe is an accolade no country wants.
“These figures show that, despite recent progress, the SNP government still has a long way to go in the battle against healthcare-associated infections.
“Sadly, almost everybody knows someone who has contracted a healthcare-associated infection, like C.diff or MRSA.
“We must aspire to deliver the cleanest hospitals and the lowest levels of hospital-acquired infections in the whole of Europe – not the highest.”
However, it subsequently emerged the figures used by Baillie had in fact been gathered in 2005/06, a period when her own party was in power.
Despite repeated calls from the SNP for an apology over her false claims, Ms Baillie refused.