Winter is coming.
The Scottish Government should be indulging in plaudits with a revolutionary move to increase the ‘Child Payment’ to £25 a week, now available to children up to the age of 16 (previously 6). It’s put money in the pockets of families that are choosing between heating and eating, helping, they say, around 400k desperate children in Scotland.
It’s been praised by charities all over. Most notably, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They urged the UK Government to take a leaf out of Scotland’s book.
This was only recent news anaw by way… and, already, it seems like old news having been overshadowed by an ever-increasing crisis in our NHS.
In the lead-up to the 2021 elections, FM Nicola Sturgeon seems to be forever eating her words on healthcare. For someone so relentlessly shrewd in her choice of words, she slipped up for just one moment… that her Government “may have taken an eye off the ball” on Scotland’s health.
It was about drug deaths specifically, which Scotland has limited powers to influence specifically… but, at least to many, it spoke volumes about the Scottish Government’s relentless pursuit of independence.
In fairness, the Scottish Government have offered much more to NHS staff than their counterparts in Westminster have. They’ve offered nurses, for instance, a 7% pay rise compared to a mere 3.5% that the English and Welsh were offered.
They’re also suffering from staff shortages partly due to Brexit & partly also due to nurses hanging up their boots being that shattered from the pandemic.
You can understand why they’re hinkin sack that… hinkin that weekly clap for their bravery was all a façade. They canny even get a pay rise in line with inflation, let alone an actual reward for their services over the last cuttla years. They’re officially getting paid less even after the slog they’ve gone through.
Slog’s an understatement anaw… they literally watched people die in front of them on a daily basis for months. Absolutely brutal.
The Scottish Government are right to point out that the budget isn’t going as far because of inflation. To the tune of around £1.7bn, to be more precise. A figure which, to be fair, has been reduced by the £1.5bn extra funding that Westminster has given since this realisation.
So why are folk getting on the Scottish Government’s back?
For all their criticism of the Conservatives down south, the SNP-led Scottish Government areny half doing their best impression of them. I first noticed this when Nicola Sturgeon actually started copying rhetoric Boris Johnson was using at PMQs all those months ago.
She, literally, word for word, was copying his deflections. Spouting things like ‘we’re getting on with the job’ after hearing any criticism towards them. I was genuinely gobsmacked hearing it.
And just like the Conservative Government is picking and choosing when to cite hings outwith their control that’s making the job a lot harder (albeit, debatably, like the issue of inflation which was obviously somewhat fuelled by the political instability of the Truss government)… and then also flat out refusing to show any contrition for poor decisions … the Scottish Government, similarly, are pointing to Westminster whenever it suits them.
Aye, there are significant external factors affecting decision-making. The Scottish Government couldn’t do anything about the pandemic which has exhausted NHS workers right across Scotland. And aye, Brexit has made it awfy tight in terms of recruitment… but there must come a point in the conversation of how we allocate and use the money we’ve got to the best of our capabilities, Scotland canny just say ‘aye, but we’re daein slightly better than England.’
We canny have it both ways. Health is a devolved matter and there are plenty hings we can do that can improve the situation.
To give one example: at this pivotal point in time, the Scottish Government is planning to spend up to £1.7bn on restructuring the NHS so that decision-making is more centralised. It is hoped that more accountability from Government ministers will level the playing field for people’s access to healthcare, rather than this postcode lottery we’ve got wherein some areas have better facilities.
Great in theory, perhaps one for the future… but why on earth are we not sending every single penny to our frontline staff? Why are we cutting £38m from the mental health budget, one of the most pressing issues in today’s society, and at the same time spending 1,700 MILLION on restructuring how decisions are made on health (i.e moving accountability from local government to Scottish Government ministers, setting up health boards n that)?
That seems like crazy decision-making at a time when finances are tight.
The mismanagement of NHS Scotland, more generally, has gotten so bad, that chief executives have been scrambling for ideas on what can be done to plug the hole. They’ve talked about a “two-tier” system in which folk wae mare money can pay to skip the queue… aye, privatising healthcare. They’ve talked about halting funding for new drugs and ending some free prescriptions.
The Scottish Government has since ruled any of that out… but we’re yet to hear an alternative.
If we’re being fair and honest… there’s not much in it between us and England. In terms ae who handles the NHS worse that is. Nit-picking at statistics is useless really. A&E, waiting lists, GP consultations, ambulance times… there’s no record to be proud of anywhere in the UK.
And aye, the Scottish Government’s budget is set by Westminster. The former can quite comfortably go well if we had all the borrowing powers they do, we could borrow loads more and make everyone better off (even though it's far more complex than that… evidenced by the shambolic decision-making by Liz Truss).
…but if the Scottish Government canny take full responsibility for healthcare in Scotland, why on earth is power over it even devolved to the Scottish Parliament?
And this is where the scepticism, and rightly so, starts creeping in.
Is their eye off the ball? Why are we talking about the constitution when the day job isny getting done to the best efforts? Should we no put this on hold, like we did wae the pandemic, until we sort our keek oot? How do we keep finding money for 5 million pound gifts at Cop27 when we’ve consistently been telt there's nae money available here?
We’ve asked for the independence question to be introduced with most seats going to referendum-promising parties… and boy we’ve got it like. Our NHS is being tossed about like a wet trackie and the ‘us v them’ politics is in full swing. There seems to be that many political factors at play, the politicians themsels canny even keep up.
There is some certainty though: the NHS is toiling & there’s a lack of both funding and tangible solutions.
Perhaps some humility, rather than the empty ‘we regret the general situation.’ Or some grown-up discussions about how best to spend our money without petty politics on both sides would go a long way.
Speaking to people actually working in the NHS like doctors and nurses, rather than storming in with a huge rebuild without such a consultation, whilst also cutting back on things like mental health, would be a start.