First Minister Alex Salmond has today proposed that Scotland’s National Health Service should be protected from privatisation by being given a constitutional guarantee in the constitution of an independent Scotland.
Announcing the proposal for consideration by the constitutional convention which will be given the task of drafting a written constitution for Scotland following a Yes vote in the referendum, the First Minister said:
“Nye Bevan’s founding principles for the National Health Service was for an institution owned by the people, which ensured that all have access to the highest attainable standard of health services, free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need and not ability to pay.
“For me that is not a simple a matter of policy, it’s a fundamental part of Scotland’s national identity.
“In England, despite the protest of many, the NHS is being eroded and the founding principles handed down by Bevan have been scorned and betrayed but successive Westminster Governments.
“It’s now well understood that voting Yes will allow us to protect Scotland’s NHS from the threat to budgets here as a consequence of the cult of austerity and privatisation being forced on the NHS in England.
“But protecting the budget of our health service is only the first step.
“With independence we have the golden opportunity to enshrine Bevan’s founding principles for our National Health Service in the written constitution for Scotland – publicly-owned, clinically-driven, and freely-delivered equally for all – a guarantee that not only will the NHS be kept in public hands, but that the services that are free to access today will be free to access in the future.“Constitutional protection for the NHS is our promise to generations yet to come that in the Scotland we seek no one will be denied medical aid because of lack of means.
“The NHS is the at the heart of our nation, and I want it to be at the heart of our constitution.”
Through a constitutional convention the Scottish Government will advocate that the constitution should include:
1) That the NHS as an institution is enshrined in the constitution, protecting the NHS in Scotland for the from privatisation by stealth that has befallen the NHS England.
2) Constitutional provision to ensure NHS services which are provided free today will be provided free in future.
The announcement was welcomed by pro-independence group NHS for Yes.
Co-founder and chair Dr Willie Wilson said: “This pledge by the Scottish Government reassures people, especially the many thousands who work for NHS Scotland, that when independence comes, we shall have permanent protection of our health service from the destructive changes now taking place in England.
“The protection of our NHS has become a key issue in the referendum debate and this promise is a shining example of how, by taking full responsibility for our own future, we can make decisions that match our own needs and priorities in Scotland.”
However Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said that the NHS was safest if Scots rejected independence:: “By pooling our resources across the UK, Scotland’s NHS gets almost 10% more spending per head of population than in England.
“That means that yearly health spending is around £200 per person higher than the UK average.
“This is a clear positive benefit of staying in the UK.”
Different countries place either rights to health or to healthcare in different ways in their constitutions:
9% of the countries in the UN have constitutional protection for free healthcare.38% guarantee the right to medical care services.14% guarantee ‘public health’.