Rennie on the SNP’s “dishonest, desperate and disgraceful” NHS scaremongering

nhs sign lrgScottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie delivered a passionate speech yesterday setting out his positive arguments for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

A link to the whole speech is below, but he spent a bit of time rebutting some recent scaremongering by the SNP on the issue of the NHS:

And across the UK, few things unite people like our belief in the NHS.

Founded on the principles that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need not the ability to pay, it remains a source of pride in which each and every one of us has a stake.

These principles are unique and they are enduring.

For the Nationalists to claim that they are under threat is dishonest, desperate and disgraceful.

It is also factually wrong.

Despite the financial pressure of the global financial crisis, the NHS budget has been protected and NHS funding in England is now £12.7 billion higher than it was in 2010.

Private sector involvement in England’s NHS is paid for with public money, meaning that the cash equivalent is protected for Scotland – and the Scottish Government can spend it however they see fit.

The publicly-funded NHS was this year ranked best healthcare system across the 11 richest countries in the world – and we are determined to keep it that way.

But five weeks out from the independence referendum, and the SNP has suddenly started to pretend that funding is in doubt.

Standing on street corners, dripping poison about the NHS into the ears of passers bye is a sign of just how desperate they are becoming.

But it’s no surprise.

People are worried about the impact independence would have on their public services – the Nationalists know this and they are trying to distract attention with bluster and lies.

People across Scotland know that public services are better funded because we are part of the UK.

Public spending per head is higher, and Scots will be better off to the tune of £1400 a year each by staying in the UK family.

That means that an independent Scotland would be faced with a mix of tax hikes and public spending cuts – and NHS funding would be in the firing line.

And here is the full speech.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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5 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '14 - 2:50pm

    There are strong forces pushing NHS spending upwards. Medical success in keeping people alive on average for much longer than used to be the case means there is a rise in spending on the routine health maintenance that is needed as people grow older.

    This has nothing to do with Scottish independence. The issue will remain the same whether or not Scotland is independent. The threat to the principle of the NHS meeting the needs of everyone comes from the unwillingness of people to pay the higher taxes that are needed to meet the needs of everyone as lifespans grow longer. It also comes from certain English politicians who refuse to recognise this, and who thus propose that state spending as a proportion of GDP should be fixed at a particular level. One of these is called Jeremy Browne, he is the Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton.

    So, the Nationalists do have a point here. If the views of people like Jeremy Browne prevail, then the principles that underly the NHS will be broken, it will become necessary either to lower the level of care that can be provided and so no longer meet all needs, or to charge for some of that care and so break the principle of that care being free. If the views of Jeremy Browne and his type prevail in England, then they will be forced onto Scotland so long as Scotland is part of the UK. However, Willie Rennie also has a point. The forces that are leading English politicians to be reluctant to stick to the principles of the NHS won’t go away from Scotland if Scotland becomes independent. If the English, led by politicians like Jeremy Browne, are unwilling to pay the taxes needed to keep to the principles of the NHS, and the Scots pull out of the UK for that reason, then the Scots will still have to pay those extra taxes even if the English would not.

  • Frank Booth 14th Aug '14 - 4:11pm

    What scaremongering over the NHS has been going on? This is a strange one since Health is devolved? Is it to do with TTIP? Presumably the Scottish NHS cannot exempt itself from that. This does seem an odd issue for the SNP to be focusing on.

  • I’m no fan of the SNP, their statement was disingenuous if not dishonest, although it was probably the latter too.

    However, there is no doubt the Coalition have wasted billions on a pointless reform of NHS England that makes it privatisation easier, and the prospect of supplementary fees or an insurance based system (as wanted by several prominent Lib Dems) more likely, while cutting the funding available for staff and treatments.

    I am no nationalist, and will almost certainly vote No, but I am incredibly grateful that NHS Scotland is devolved and comes under the remit of the Scottish Parliament.

  • Stephen Donnelly 15th Aug '14 - 12:23pm

    As Matthew Huntbach points out the SNP have a valid point. Whilst the coalition has ring fenced NHS spending, that will not be sufficient to protect the existing model. Matthew identifies some of the pressures, but Angela as Merkel has pointed out: Europe has 7% of the world’s population, 25% of it’s GDP, and 50% of it’s social spending. This is not sustainable in the long run without higher taxes or structural reform.

  • Agree with Matthew, disagree with Jeremy Brown.

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