Preparing the hyena feast

The article in The National under the headline Corbyn reveals unredacted document showing ‘NHS is on the table in trade talks’ refers throughout to “the NHS”, implying a single entity. This is misleading. There are, in fact four quite separate and distinct public health services in the UK.

  • NHS Scotland
  • NHS England
  • NHS Wales
  • Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland

We may, however, assume that the US corporations seeking access to and control of “the NHS” think of it as a single entity even if, as we should expect, they are sufficiently well informed to be aware of the reality. What is certain is that they will want the same access to and control of all four health systems. And, with the support of the US Government, they will demand that the UK Government facilitate this as a condition of any trade deal.

We know also that, post-Brexit, the UK Government will be so desperate to conclude a trade deal with the US which can be spun as an example of the benefits of leaving the EU that they will agree to pretty much any and all conditions set by the US negotiators. We must ask ourselves, therefore, how the UK Government might go about facilitating this ‘sell-off’ of all four health services as part of a single deal given that there are significant differences in the way they are structured, funded and managed. We should also ask ourselves what demands the US negotiators might make in this regard.

It seems extremely likely that the US negotiators will want the four health services combined under a common UK-wide framework. Which is handy, because the UK Government has prepared for just such an eventuality. Readers may recall discarded Scottish Secretary David Mundell referring to these “UK-wide common frameworks” on numerous occasions – and with great relish as he at the time supposed he would be in charge of the Scottish bit of these common frameworks through the shadow administration called ‘UK Government in Scotland’. We may also note that these “UK-wide common frameworks” are openly being discussed in relation to agriculture, agricultural support, fisheries etc.

While there has been no mention of a “UK-wide common framework” for health services we would anticipate that any proposals of this nature would be kept under very tight wraps. Tighter even than those that secured – or failed to secure – the document Jeremy Corbyn now claims to have in his possession. Even if no specific proposals exist, which seems highly unlikely given the language of the aforementioned document, the UK Government has seized powers which could provide the means to ‘surreptitiously’ force the four health services into adopting common practices in various areas – notably, powers over public procurement.

Additionally, the UK Government has seized powers over elements of reciprocal healthcare, which would allow them to claim some kind of precedent for the imposition of a common framework in other aspects of health services. We know how that argument goes – there is already a “common UK-wide framework” in respect of that, and this is closely associated with that, so obviously there should also be a “UK-wide common frameworks” for this.

And let us not forget the provisions of Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998), which gives the British Prime Minister sweeping authority to unilaterally alter which powers are devolved and which reserved. Read with due trepidation.

“Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.”

Taken altogether, we may safely conclude that the intention of the UK Government is to effectively abolish the separate health services by absorbing them into NHS England in order to present a more tempting prey for America’s corporate hyenas. We can be sure that NHS Scotland will be particularly targeted due to the fact that those predators find distinctly unpalatable the Scottish Government’s commitment to preserving a genuine public health service founded on a principle of universality that is alien and anathema to them.

Some will protest that this is overstating the threat to NHS Scotland. Can we afford to take the chance?

PS – How could I have forgotten this? ‘Boris Johnson warns SNP will ‘forfeit all right’ to manage NHS‘?

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8 thoughts on “Preparing the hyena feast

  1. If Scotland does not become independent Scotland before this happens, will independent Scotland be able to restore a publicly funded universal healthcare service without the enormous expense of fighting the American hyenas in court actions?


    1. No. It almost certainly would not be possible to create a genuine public health service from scratch even without the additional difficulty of litigious US corporations. When NHS Scotland is gone, it’s gone for good.


  2. Hi Mr Bell. Just saw this blog and wanted to add that Mr Johnson has already stated that, if he is elected with a majority or can wangle a majority, after the GE, he will expedite Brexit, to have much of the initial stage completed by the end of 2020. Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of the second indyref being in late 2020. The two do not align well for Scotland. Quite the opposite. So much can happen in the initial stages that Scotland becomes legally bound by many of the decisions being taken by Westminster right now, both in relation to concessions to the EU and even greater concessions to the US. It is not merely a case of being able to afford to replace dismantled institutions – albeit, I agree absolutely that we would not be in any financial position after independence to replace something as massive as the SNHS – but also of being able to get out of legally-binding contracts of an international commercial nature that the UK has made on our behalf. Because we are not independent, the international community must assume that we agree with these being made on our behalf. The Scottish government must state clearly, loudly and firmly NOW, in advance, that it will not honour these agreements made on its behalf but without its consent.

    It must make absolutely clear to any future parties to such agreements that Scotland is giving notice that it will opt out of these agreements precisely because international law precludes its being harried into making such agreements that are against its well-being and wishes. The SG must state that it is giving notice also to the international community that it is under attack from the very forces that are presuming consent. Unless it does this now, it will find itself having to shell out billions and trillions in future court cases where the UK has bound it into underside contracts. The implications of letting everything float and slide until another independence referendum can be set up – if ever – are far-reaching and insupportable, and it is way past the time when the SG should have enlisted help to take it out of the UK as soon as possible. I keep saying this over and over: 1. Brexit cannot be fixed for Scotland; 2. the mess that the Union is in cannot be fixed for Scotland; 3. the SG needs the help of legal experts to get us out of the UK via the Treaty route, which also gives us a better-than-average hand in this poker game; 4. a second referendum was always going to be a risky business and we could easily lose again, and will, if Westminster and the British State have anything to do with it.

    The first thing we must do as soon as the election is over, no matter what happens, is give Westminster notice that we are withdrawing our MPs soon. The SNP MPs should have been put on notice long ago that their jobs down there were always, without exception, temporary. Harsh, but realistic, if we are ever to gain our independence. Those who are serious about independence will have the opportunity to stand in an independent Scotland or find alternative employment with the various embassies, economic trade delegations, and even the EU, if we remain – which is a damn sight more than most of us could expect in similar circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There will always have to be a referendum. Independence can only be restored with the informed consent of the Scottish people. The point at which that referendum is held; the form it takes; and the process leading up to it, are all things that should be open to discussion.

      Withdrawing our MPs is something of a nuclear option. Once they’re out, it’s not going to be easy for them to go back. Very careful consideration will be required before taking action with such finality. It’s good to have it as an option. So it must be good to keep that option open as long as possible.


      1. Hi Mr Bell. Almost every other country in the world has held a ratifying referendum as the democratic option after independence. This would be absolutely necessary after resiling the Treaty, too. Every country, in recent times, that has held a pre independence referendum has lost, one of them twice, and this has come about mainly because the country from which the part is trying to secede sort leave, ensures that every dirty trick in the book is used. I agree that removing our MPs is something of a final gesture, but it is one we should be holding in reserve, nonetheless. Again, we have only Ireland as the template for leaving the UK in the domestic sphere, and nothing they did or said or could say or could do within the walls of Westminster in any way helped their cause. Only when Ireland left Westminster did the British take Ireland seriously. Nothing even as much as hint that the British State has learned any lessons from the past. Our MPs should be under no illusion that this is not a job for life.


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