By a Newsnet reporter
Newly published figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre have revealed that the Scottish Block Grant is at risk due to UK government’s policies of privatisation in the NHS in England. The SNP claims that the data show that NHS budgets in Scotland can only be protected in the long term through independence.
In theory the NHS in Scotland is entirely independent of its English and Welsh counterparts, however the SPICe information reveals that spending on the NHS in Scotland is still indirectly determined by UK government policies. Due to the complex workings of the Barnett formula, which provides the basis for the Block Grant paid annually through Westminster, for every £1 million of cuts to the NHS budget in England, the Scottish Block Grant will be reduced by £99,100.
The UK government has signalled its intention to fix the NHS budget at £114bn in cash terms. It also plans to ‘save’ £20 billion by introducing privatisation and thus, according to George Osborne and the Treasury, creating efficiency savings.
Assuming that the UK government achieves its target of a £20bn reduction in health budgets through privatisation measures, the Scottish budget could be facing a cut of up to £1.98 billion as a direct result of Conservative health policies and their privatisation agenda. Even though the NHS in Scotland is entirely devolved to Holyrood, the current devolution settlement is not be able to protect Scotland from the effects of Conservative policies rejected by the Scottish electorate.
In Scotland, the Scottish government has a cast-iron commitment to protect the founding principles of the NHS. The Scottish government could seek to protect Scotland’s health budget, but this would only come at the expense of swingeing cuts to Scottish government funding in other areas.
The SPICe analysis demonstrates the detrimental financial effect on Scottish public spending that would be caused by future reductions in state spending on Health at Westminster, as a result of the Tories’ creeping NHS privatisation agenda.
For the SNP, Bob Doris MSP, Deputy Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said that this is evidence that the long-term future of Scotland’s NHS can only be secured with independence.
Mr Doris said:
“The privatisation agenda by the Tories and Labour south of the Border in areas such as healthcare has highlighted the benefits of having a Scottish Parliament that has protected the founding principles of a public NHS in Scotland, free at the point of need. It is only because the NHS in Scotland is already effectively independent that it is not being run into the ground by the Tories, as we are witnessing in England.
“Indeed, the way in which the health service is being run in Scotland underpins the case for decisions in all areas to be taken in Scotland.
“Labour are no better – locked into an anti-independence pact with the Tories in trying to roll back the benefits we have gained from devolution since 1999
“These figures from SPICe demonstrate the knock-on effect on Scotland’s block grant that will occur in the long-term, if state spending on the Health service south of the border is reduced through privatisation.
“Ultimately, the only way for the Scotland’s NHS to be protected in the long-term is for all of the economic and policy decisions to be made here in Scotland, and for Scotland to be in charge of our own resources with an independent Parliament.
“That is why Scotland needs the powers of a normal, independent country – so that we can be equally well-governed in all areas, such as welfare and the economy, instead of being on the receiving end of damaging decisions taken at Westminster. This can only be achieved by a Yes vote in the referendum in 2014.”