Jim O’Neill shares his personal experience of our overstretched “NHSNP”, and says people have the chance this week to vote for a real progressive alternative for the whole of the UK.
In February, after x-rays, I was diagnosed as needing at least one new knee. I was referred to the “knee pathway” with advice from my GP that the guarantee was a new knee within 12 weeks. Having heard nothing since then, I contacted my practice this week for an update. I was shocked to be told that the minimum waiting time was now 41 weeks, but it may take over a year to join the pathway, that is to get a first meeting with a surgeon. So much for Nicola Sturgeon’s much lauded guarantee of 12 weeks.
There is, of course, a further side effect to this situation. I am walking with a stick, and the way I am walking is beginning to create pain in my opposite hip. I am also using painkillers every day to get by. Both of these have the potential to add costs to the eventual bill. And clearly I am not the only one. The figure of 41 weeks has not developed magically. Thousands of people are waiting in pain for these operations which are putting their lives on hold.
This failure is not the only one. Both in primary and secondary care, failures are being recorded weekly. The A&E target was missed again last week, as it has been consistently for years. We were told that one in four GP practices have gaps in their GP staffing. They have even taken to “speed-dating” events, as reported by Reporting Scotland, to try to attract any available GPs into their surgeries. And these failures are not only happening in our new shiny Scottish Nationalist Health Service (prop. Sturgeon and Robinson), which has failed consistently to predict and plan for staffing need. Remember, it was Nicola Sturgeon, as Health Secretary, who cut nurse recruitment.
A similar failure has also been shown in teacher recruitment, where in 2011, the SNP government massively cut teacher recruitment on the back of a one-year surplus of staff. Many years ago, I made representations annually to the Scottish Education Department planning body on teacher recruitment on behalf of my union. It is not really rocket science. The Education Department, even allowing for some losses and change in numbers, has five years advance notice of the number of children in primary schools and TWELVE years notice of the number of pupils in secondary schools. So how have Ministers so consistently got the number of teachers needed so wrong so often?
These are the people who are now bidding for our vote to send SNP candidates back to Westminster on the basis of a promise of taking part in a progressive alliance to turf out the Tories. By their own incompetence shall ye know them!
Unsurprisingly, the last manifesto purporting to cover the whole of the UK to be launched was that of the SNP, maybe because they realised, like everyone else, that it was irrelevant to the outcome of this election. So, what did it contain? A massive boost for public services to be paid for by a 50% tax rate, a proposal that they have already rejected seven times in Scotland. Anti-austerity in public services but no indication that they would remove the wage cap on public services, or reverse the cuts in the numbers of public servants. A minimum wage of £10 per hour, which they have already rejected imposing on contractors in the public sector in Scotland, where they have the power to do so. And a cut in National Insurance for employers while not increasing their Corporation Tax.
What is progressive about any of this? It is nothing more than dishonest and their proposals for paying for all of this add up even less than the shambles presided over by the Tories, an assessment made by most commentators. There is a clear discontinuity between what they are proposing for the United Kingdom and what they are proposing for Scotland. They cannot have it both ways. Either they support a 50p level of tax or they don’t. Either they support paying for better public services or they don’t. If it is the former, let us see them bringing these policies into effect in Scotland, before pontificating on what should happen throughout the rest of the UK.
They think that all this dissembling should bring them a seat at the Brexit negotiations. As always, they are retreating into their own little tartan-coloured fantasy world where everything will turn out well when the Scots vote for independence at (probably) the fifth time of asking.
The Nationalist manifesto shows even more clearly how irrelevant they are to this Westminster election. It is a choice between Labour and Tory, between Corbyn and May, between progressive policies and a retreat into Little England (and Little Scotland). This week, it is time to make your choice.