Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

We know that Tom Gordon has a functioning imagination. We see the Herald’s political editor deploy that imagination regularly – nay, incessantly – as he contributes to the campaign of denigration against any identifiably Scottish institution or organisation demanded by the British Nationalist propaganda effort. Tom Gordon is a leading exponent of the ‘Scotland-as-hellhole’ genre of journalism. Indeed, he may have a credible claim to be the originator of the sub-genre pertaining particularly to NHS Scotland. He is certainly the most accomplished. And prolific! Hardly a day passes but that Uncle Tam has at least one article devoted to undermining public confidence in our health service and those who, by his account, barely make it work.

This doesn’t make Tom Gordon a bad journalist. Not in terms of proficiency, at least. (Whether it makes him bad in any moral or ethical sense of that word is for each of us judge for ourselves.) On the contrary, it takes a highly competent journalist to slant, spin and distort information in the way he does without crossing the line into blatant dishonesty more often than he does. If there is a glowing report on any aspect of NHS Scotland that Tom Gordon can’t transform into a damning indictment then there isn’t one that he can’t assiduously disregard. Good news is no news! It is the mark of his manipulative skill that he is only very rarely not up to the challenge of conjuring crisis, collapse and catastrophe from material which to less professionally jaundiced eyes would seem to suggest that NHS Scotland performs extremely well by the impossible standards of a genuine public health service.

All of which makes the dearth of imagination in his little diatribe about Universal Basic Income (UBI) the more perplexing. It is remarkable that Tom Gordon can glance at an Audit Scotland report on NHS Scotland and immediately see the single vaguely negative point which can by his magic become the only thing worthy of the public’s attention and consideration, and yet he can peer at a widely commended proposal such as UBI and be utterly unable to discern anything positive about it at all. All he can focus on is the fact that the proposal referred to by Reform Scotland is more than four years old and that the figures used dated from 2014. On this basis Uncle Tam dismisses the entire concept of UBI as one of those “wonder-remedies” peddled by politicians and sneeringly accuses its proponents of “flogging dead hobbyhorses”.

OK! We know that in these straitened times journalists are denied the resources to do the little extras like research. But for being prevented from doing his job properly by being too impoverished to possess even the most basic computer, Tom Gordon might have discovered that UBI in a variety of forms is taken very seriously by many authoritative experts and that from at least the 1960’s to the present numerous pilot schemes have been or are being run in countries as diverse as the US, Namibia, Canada and Finland. Of course, not all of the completed experiments have been deemed a success. But is that not the nature of pilot projects? Is it not their purpose to find the ways that a scheme may fail every bit as much as the ways in which it might succeed?

In 2018 the Scottish Government committed £250,000 to a feasibility study for four UBI pilot schemes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and Ayrshire. The study, which was partly prompted by a report from the highly respected Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) examining the benefits and challenges of a basic income system in Fife, was due to be completed in September 2019. The resulting report will doubtless be to some extent a casualty of the current public health crisis. But the First Minister has made clear her continuing interest in UBI.

That may be the problem. If it is capable of being described as ‘Scottish’, then it must be denigrated. If it is supported to the slightest extent by the Scottish Government, it must be calumniated. If Nicola Sturgeon is expressing an interest, it must be belittled. If it is SNP policy or even looks like it might become SNP policy having been debated at party conferences, then it must be besmirched. Them’s the rules of British Nationalist propaganda!

It turns out that Uncle Tam hasn’t lost his imagination. He has simply deployed it more subtly than is his customary practice. I don’t believe he is as unaware of the facts about UBI as he pretends. He must be aware that rather than being peddled as a “wonder-remedy”, UBI is widely regarded as having a great deal of potential. He must realise that the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will both require a major rethink and provide an opportunity for reform. But UBI is being talked about by Nicola Sturgeon and considered by the Scottish Government. That makes it ‘Scottish’ enough for the strictures of the Herald’s British Nationalist editorial line to require that it be denigrated and defamed. A job for Tom Gordon.

It takes imagination to imply that UBI is simultaneously a dangerously draconian economic measure and a pathetically unimaginative policy proposal. Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

It takes skill to suggest to the reader that it is not possible to look past dated numbers to the underlying principle. Nae bother tae Uncle Tam!

I’ve no idea what it takes to consistently portray Scotland as a depressed and depressing ‘failed state’. But it’s nae bother tae Uncle Tam.

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Presumption of guilt

Presumption of innocence does not apply to Donald Trump. He is to be presumed guilty until proven guilty. Even if he is proved innocent, we should probably continue to presume him guilty, just as a precaution. Trump never looks more guilty than when he is protesting his innocence. He’s like the guy sprawled in the gutter wearing only what you like to think is his own vomit but insisting that he’s not drunk. The more sober he says he is, the more inebriated he seems. Even if there is a perfectly innocent explanation for his predicament that doesn’t involve consumption of ill-advised quantities of alcohol, you’re still going to entertain the suspicion that he’s very, very pished.

Trump is prostrate in the political gutter, awash with lies and deceit, proclaiming his honesty and sincerity in a manner that makes him less believable with every utterance.

Two examples of his dishonesty stand out. The first is when he insists that US corporations have no interest in “the NHS”. Even if that predatory interest was not as evident as I have previously pointed out (, we know that he is now contradicting an earlier statement when he was quite explicit about US trade negotiators setting their sights on “the NHS”. Plus we have the recently revealed documents which confirm that “the NHS” is very much on the table.

Trump is lying.

The second lie is evident when you ask why Trump is telling the first lie. He has previously been far from reticent about the fact that US corporate hyenas regard “the NHS” as a juicy bit of prey. Why is he now saying that “the NHS” is so unpalatable even those corporate hyenas aren’t tempted. Could it be that he has been asked to say this by his British hosts? Might he have been nobbled?

It’s easy enough to imagine friend and fellow liar Boris Johnson having a quiet word in Trump’s ear, explaining that he was getting an increasingly hard ride on the issue of “the NHS” and, pretty please, could Donald help out his old Tory chums.

Trump has obliged. The nonsense about wanting nothing to do with “the NHS” is clearly intended to spike the guns of those warning about Tory plans to give US corporations unprecedented access as part of a desperately needed trade deal. Trump is interceding in the general election campaign on behalf of the Tories. Which is precisely what we would expect after he promised to stay out of it.

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A poll worth heeding

There are a couple of things worth noting about the YouGov poll which suggests a Conservative win with a substantial majority. The first is that it is very likely to be accurate. This because voting intentions in England, where UK general elections are decided, are based very substantially on Brexit. These voting intentions are fixed. They are unlikely to change because nothing about Brexit is going to change. Or, at least, nothing is going to change soon enough or dramatically enough to have any impact on voting intentions. Nothing is happening with the Brexit process. Not that is visible to the public, antway. And none of the parties are going to change their stance on the Brexit issue during an election campaign.

It is significant, too, that none of the 68 Tory MPs giving Boris Johnson a working majority is likely to be a ‘rebel’, They wouldn’t have been selected as candidates if they were not as committed to taking the UK out of the EU at any cost as their leader.

The second thing to note is that, as is commonly the case, Scotland cannot affect the outcome of this UK general election. The most Scottish voters might hope to do is slightly reduce the Tory majority. They can only do that by voting for their SNP candidate. As has been true for many years now, there is absolutely no point in voting for British Labour in Scotland. I dislike the expression “wasted vote”. As far as I am concerned, participation in the democratic process is always worthwhile. But a vote for British Labour in Scotland is certainly futile if the intention – or the hope – is to influence the outcome at UK level.

In Scotland, British Labour is irrelevant and the Conservative Party is anathema.

We have to think, calmly and rationally about what is the best outcome for Scotland in the coming election. A good case can be made for a British Labour minority government supported by a substantial SNP presence at Westminster. But we have no way of bringing about that outcome. Or even of contributing to it in any effective way. Whatever British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) may tell you, there is simply no possibility of them enjoying a miraculous resurgence. And, even if that miracle were to happen, the election would still be decided in England.

The best outcome that is actually achievable is a massive win for the SNP. A win on a scale that shakes the British establishment. A win so big it cannot be ignored.

What does Scotland gain from returning upwards of 50 SNP MPs? We know that the SNP provides the most vigorous opposition to the Tories at Westminster. Even if this opposition cannot have much actual effect because of the way the odds are stacked against them – both numerically and procedurally – it is SNP MPs who speak, not just for Scotland, but for democracy, decency and political sanity. It is SNP MPs who ask the awkward questions. It is SNP MPs who defend our NHS and other essential public services. It is SNP MPs who truly hold the Tory government to account in a way that only those with very long memories will recall British Labour doing.

No British government is ever going to facilitate or cooperate with any process which puts their ‘precious’ Union in jeopardy. That includes the Section 30 process to which the First Minister is so inexplicably committed. In terms of Scotland’s cause we must therefore consider what might best serve that cause when the time comes to seek the restoration of Scotland’s independence with the consent of the Scottish people but absent the involvement of the British state. Unquestionably, Scotland’s cause is best served by maximising demonstrable support for the SNP – the only party which is unconditionally and unequivocally committed to independence.

That commitment to independence necessarily entails so much more. It entails a commitment to protecting Scotland’s democracy; to defending the Scottish Parliament; to preserving our ability to develop a distinctive political culture informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. It entails dedication to maintaining our essential public services, such as NHS Scotland, and defending them against predation by corporate hyenas.

Even if you are not yet persuaded that Scotland’s interests can only be secured by ending the Union with England-as-Britain, a vote for the SNP is much more than a vote for independence. It is, first and foremost, a vote for al the positive things mentioned above. But it is also a vote against the chaos and corruption of British politics. It is a vote against a system which imposes Tory governments on Scotland regardless of how we vote – along with all their socially corrosive and economically destructive policies.

It is a vote against a political system which so favours a corrupt and incompetent elite as to allow Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister. It is a vote against a system intent on maintaining established power, privilege and patronage while actively excluding the worthy and the talented.

It is a vote against an archaic and grotesquely asymmetric political union which denies the people of Scotland the full and effective exercise of our sovereignty. It is a vote against everything that England-as-Britain has become and will become as its decline into ugly right-wing nationalism continues.

The YouGov poll has to be taken seriously. We must anticipate Boris Johnson continuing as British Prime Minister, but armed with a solid majority in the British parliament and emboldened by his victory. A Boris Johnson made all the more dangerous by being afforded almost unfettered power. A Boris Johnson determined to earn that most ominous of epithets – strong leader.

Behind this gleeful, gloating, malignant child-clown, a British government intent on locking Scotland into the Union and dragging us along on its wildly erratic journey into the political, diplomatic and economic unknown – leaving behind it a wasteland of public services in which the poor and the powerless must survive however they may.

The only thing which can function as a buffer between this and Scotland is a strong, determined and assertive SNP government in Scotland supported by a massive SNP presence in the British parliament. It may be that we have the former. On Thursday 12 December we must ensure that we have the latter. For Scotland’s sake, we must all vote SNP.

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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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Forget Scotland!

The British Nationalist threat to Scotland’s health service is not new. It predates Boris Johnson’s undeserved elevation by several years. All that has changed is that we now have a British Prime Minister who is so contemptuous of Scotland and its people as to speak openly of the British state’s malign intent.

You’d have to be terminally naive to suppose the British political elite weren’t itching to get their greedy paws on NHS Scotland. Absorbing Scotland’s public health service into one of those “UK-wide common frameworks” that David Mundell wasn’t considered capable of managing serves the purposes of the ‘One Nation’ project very well. For a start, it would be an important step in neutralising the Scottish Parliament. Stripping Holyrood of its most significant powers has to be a priority for British Nationalists as they seek to eradicate Scotland’s distinctive political culture.

Few things better symbolise Scotland’s distinctive political culture than NHS Scotland. For that reason alone, it must be considered a prime target for seizure by the British state.

All the preparations are in place. There is a new unelected and unaccountable shadow administration called ‘The UK Government in Scotland’ waiting to take over all the powers added to the reserved list appended to the Scotland Act (1998). Curiously, the legislation which allows the British Prime Minister to do this is Nicola Sturgeon’s favourite, Section 30. Here’s what it says.

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

For “Her Majesty” read the British Prime Minister. Schedules 4 and 5 are basically the choke-chain and muzzle put on Holyrood to stop the Sweaties getting ideas above their subordinate station. Section 30, as should now be clear, is an additional safety mechanism in case the choke-chain and muzzle don’t hold. It means the British executive can rewrite the Scotland Act to add anything to the list of reserved powers or protected provisions.

These powers are reserved and provisions protected for a reason. The British ruling elite would only accept devolution on condition there was no possibility that the Union could be compromised. The Union has to be protected at all costs because it is crucial to the British state’s conceit of itself as a global power. Without the Union – without Scotland – the rump of what had been the UK would not be able to strut the world stage with the big boys. The Jocks could have their pretendy Parliament. But it must always be under Westminster’s heel.

Needless to say, money comes into it as well. Particularly with the whole Brexit shambles. It is hardly a secret that the avaricious hyenas of corporate America are sniffing and slobbering around England’s NHS. The health service down south has been weakened to the point where it is easy prey for those who regard health-care solely as a source of profit.

But those US corporations want the lot. They won’t do a deal while part of the ‘English’ NHS is under the control of those ‘pinko liberals’ in Edinburrow. The British government needs those deals with the US. So they have to seize NHS Scotland. Simple as that.

If we don’t restore Scotland’s independence very soon, you can forget healthcare free at the point of need. You can forget a lot of other things as well. You can forget a fracking-free Scotland. You can forget universal benefits. In fact, you can forget the Scotland we know and the Scotland to which we aspire.

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You did this!

I’m sure almost all of us share the First Minister’s sentiments regarding Scotland’s NHS. I suspect that, even among Tories who believe with all the conviction of a religious fundamentalist that privatisation is the answer to everything, there are grave doubts about putting our health service into the hands of heartlessly grasping US corporations.

It is surely safe to assume that, among those horrified by the prospect of American-style privatised healthcare, there are many who voted No in the 2014 independence referendum and many who voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum. They will no doubt protest that there was no way they could have foreseen this threat to NHS Scotland when they voted as they did. They will seek comfort in that lie.

The truth is that on both occasions ample warnings were given about the risks involved in, firstly, remaining part of the British state and, subsequently, allowing Scotland to be caught up in the rampant British Nationalist fervour which drove the insanity of Brexit.

You were told! You chose to disregard the warnings. At least now take responsibility for your actions and seek to make amends.

Those who were duped into voting No and deceived into voting Leave should be among the loudest voices demanding that the Union be dissolved so that Scotland’s public health service can be saved. They should be among the most alarmed at the consequences of their actions. They should be eager to try and put right the harm that they have helped to cause.

Instead, many will convince themselves that there was no way of knowing how disastrous a No vote would be for Scotland. They will persuade themselves that it wasn’t possible to make a connection between a vote to Leave the EU and a situation in which the British political elite would so desperate for anything that could be spun as a good trade deal they’d offer up Scotland’s public services to the vultures and hyenas of corporate America.

In the Yes movement, we will be urged to allow them their self-serving delusion. We will be told that we must not berate No voters for having voted No in the honest belief that this was right for Scotland. Perhaps the greatest nonsense within the independence movement is the notion that we must persuade people to make different choices whilst constantly assuring them that there was nothing wrong with their previous choice.

I’m here to assure those No voters that it is all their fault. They did this. They put our fate in the hands of people like Theresa May and Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and David Mundell. They had a straightforward choice between putting their faith in the people of Scotland and giving carte blanche to the British political elite. They chose the latter. And, now that the consequences of that choice are becoming clear even to those who wilfully disregarded all the warnings, it’s up to them to say what they are prepared to do in an effort to rectify the damage they helped unleash on Scotland.

No voters have to ask themselves whether their Union is more precious than NHS Scotland and everything else that has been put in jeopardy by their choice.

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For the sake of sanity

nhs_threatI sincerely hope people read this article in full. Morag and Ulrich Fischer provide an insightful and informed overview of Scotland’s mental health services. It’s by no means an entirely favourable review. It is clear that much remains to be done. Overall, the article conveys a distinct sense of hope and confidence. But there are also evident concerns.

These concerns relate, in some measure, to the fact that Scotland’s mental health services are under serious pressure. But such pressure is an inherent characteristic of a genuine public health system in which the overarching principle of universal care free at the point of need must be fully honoured while striving to resolve the intractable problem of potentially infinite demand chasing severely limited resources. That is what our health workers do. All of them. Doctors and managers and nurses and cleaners and all the rest. They cope with the demands. They manage the resources. They deal with the pressure. That is their job. And, whatever the British politicians squatting in the Scottish Parliament say, they do that job remarkably well.

When elective and/or non-critical procedures are postponed in order to free-up capacity to deal with some extraordinary demand, this is not a failure on the part of health service workers as those British politicians would have you believe. This is just them doing their job.

In order to do this job; in order to cope with the pressure, there is one thing that the people who run Scotland’s NHS absolutely require above anything else – even money. They need control. Without an appropriate level of control, normal workaday pressure becomes intolerable stress. It is not pressure that breaks systems or people. It is the stress of responsibility without authority; expectation without capacity; aspiration without hope; pressure without control.

There are striking parallels between factors affecting the mental well-being of individuals and those which impact on the functional ‘health’ of groups, organisations, communities and even nations. Lack of control is one example. Insecurity is another. When an individual is under pressure to perform (or conform) but is deprived of the relevant choices, that individual will experience stress and suffer a deterioration in their mental health. This will always be the case. Only the degree of deterioration will vary from person to person.

Similarly, when an organisation, community or nation is under pressure to achieve defined goals while being denied the decision-making power that is required, that entity too will tend to become dysfunctional.

Insecurity arises when such ability to choose as the individual may possess – or believe they possess – comes under threat. Or when whatever limited decision-making power exists within the organisation, community or nation is perceived to be in jeopardy.

Morag and Ulrich Fischer recognise the threat. They feel the insecurity. Having described the successes and ongoing efforts and continuing progress in Scotland’s mental health services, they issue a stark warning.

All this might be under threat should we allow Westminster to ride roughshod over devolved powers.

That warning must be heeded. We must not allow Westminster to strip powers from the Scottish Parliament. We must cease to tolerate the withholding of powers that rightfully belong with the Scottish Parliament.

We must categorically reject the British state’s asserted veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination.

We must loudly and vehemently denounce the anti-democratic British Nationalists who would deny us the opportunity to choose a different way.

We must dissolve the Union!

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Mind your language!

saltire_breakoutIt is disappointing to find The National referring to “the NHS”, as if there were a single UK-wide health service. The British media and the British political parties habitually conflate NHS Scotland with NHS England in order to taint the Scottish health service with the defects and failings of its English counterpart. If it is to effectively offer an alternative perspective on Scotland, it is essential that The National avoids such misleading terms.

As we gear up for a new referendum campaign, we must all play a part in reframing Scotland’s political discourse. When the British propaganda machine refers to “the NHS” this is not mere carelessness. It is intentional. It is part of a purposeful effort to confine the narrative to a particular frame – the frame of a ‘One Nation’ British state. We must emphatically reject this frame. We must reclaim our language. We must create our own narrative. We must reframe our entire political discourse.

Scotland is a nation. It is not part of another nation. We are not seeking independence from another nation. Scotland is not ‘un-independent’. Scotland is an independent nation within a political union. We are not seeking independence from ‘Britain’. Britain does not exist as a country. It exists only as a convenient myth created by and on behalf of a British ruling elite. Britain is not a nation. It is the structures of power, privilege and patronage which support and sustain that ruling elite. It is a system by which the few ensure that their interests are served at the expense of the many.

The political union which has been imposed on Scotland is democratically unsustainable because it denies Scotland’s status as a nation and prohibits the effective exercise by Scotland’s people of the sovereignty that is inalienably theirs. Historically, the British state has maintained its grip on Scotland by persuading enough of us that we are subordinate. Language plays a huge part in this process. The wilful discounting of Scotland’s separate health service being just one example.

With the evolution of a distinctive and increasingly divergent political culture in Scotland, more and more people are questioning the myth of the British nation and challenging the asserted authority of the British political elite. People are no longer inclined to meekly accept that Westminster can have a veto on their right of self-determination. People are more inclined to openly and loudly protest the efforts to subordinate Scotland to the British Crown in the British Parliament.

Realising that the Union can no longer be held together with pomp, pageantry and propaganda, the British establishment has resolved to formally strip Scotland of its status as a nation using the opportunity presented by Brexit.

If we are to successfully resist this malignant ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project, we must escape the mindset inculcated in us over generations of immersion in a narrative shaped by, and for the purposes of, the ruling elites of the British state . We must do this in ways large and small. By insisting on the distinction between NHS Scotland and the rapidly disintegrating remnants of England’s health service. By exacting respect for our democratic institutions and elected representatives. By requiring an end to the withholding of powers from the Scottish Parliament.

By demanding that the Union be dissolved.

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Beware of BritNats!

nhs_threatShona Robison is, of course, quite correct to highlight the threat to Scotland’s health service posed by Brexit. Talk of “an immigration system that works for the whole of the UK” from the British government makes no more sense than anything else about the entire Brexit fiasco. Devising such a system in the face of the diverse and diverging needs, priorities and aspirations of the four nations would be a massively complex and problematic task. A task which, on the basis of all available evidence, we must therefore assume to be well beyond the capacities of the current London regime.

It is inevitable that a BritNat Brexit imposed on Scotland by this regime will do real and serious harm to NHS Scotland. Pandering to a xenophobic obsession with immigration is bound to have an adverse impact on workforce recruitment and retention. We can only guess at the deleterious effects of Scotland being dragged out of the EU agencies which facilitate cooperation in medical research, recognition of qualifications, drug approvals and much more. Our enforced isolation from the single market can hardly be less than catastrophic for Scotland’s burgeoning life science industries. The British political elite have no answers to questions about the rights of Scottish patients to access treatment in the EU – only vacuous, patronising platitudes.

All of this is bad enough. But there is an additional threat which Shona Robison does not mention. The threat of Scotland’s cherished public health service being laid bare to the ravages of predatory US corporations – sacrificed by a British state desperate to secure anything that can be presented as a shiny new transatlantic trade deal.

Does anybody seriously believe that the ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ which the British government proposes to inflict on us have anything at all to do with making Scotland’s healthcare system work better for patients? Given what we know of the British political elite’s obsession with austerity and rigid adherence to neo-liberal orthodoxies, is it not infinitely more likely that the purpose is to prepare NHS Scotland for large-scale privatisation? As a non-negotiable condition of any deal, those ravenous corporations will demand the removal of such inconveniences as a Scottish Parliament and Government committed to the principles of universal healthcare free at the point of need.

The obvious ‘solution’ is to take control of NHS Scotland out of the hands of Scotland’s democratically elected representatives and hand it to a shadow administration which is not accountable to Scottish voters. An unelected quasi-government, based at the Scotland Office, which can be relied upon to give precedence at all times and in all matters to the interests of the British state and its corporate clients over the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

And why wouldn’t they? Why would the British state not adopt this ‘solution’? After all, when Scotland voted No in 2014 we gave the British political elite licence to do whatever they want with our nation. Why would they not take full advantage of that licence?

Those who voted No may protest that this is not what they voted for at all. But it’s a bit late now to start thinking about consequences. They should have read the small print. They should have heeded the warnings.

The mistake Scotland made in 2014 must be rectified. If Scotland’s precious NHS is to be rescued from the menace of rabid British Nationalism then the licence that was so recklessly given to the British state by that No vote must be revoked. All of Scotland’s vital public services, along with the distinctive political culture and democratic institutions which sustain them, are put in jeopardy by being party to a political union which renders us powerless to protect them. That political union must be dissolved.

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Dugdale dumps on doctors

Once again British Labour in Scotland takes the pish out of the people of Scotland with ill-thought, half-baked pronouncements that have more to do with grabbing headlines than offering cogent policies. Pretendy wee party loyalists and British nationalist fanatics will lap this up like Pavlovian dogs. Thinking people, on the other hand, will ask the pertinent questions.

Questions such as: is there actually a ‘crisis’ relating to GP appointment waiting times? British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) and their allies in the other British parties declare a fresh ‘crisis’ in NHS Scotland almost daily. And yet our health services continue to function rather well. Users of those services are, according to surveys, reasonably satisfied. While the British parties and their friends in the media constantly paint a picture of NHS staff of failure and a system in a state of collapse, the people who actually use NHS Scotland appear bafflingly oblivious to the catastrophe unfolding around them. You’d really think they’d be the first to notice.

Alternatively, we might conclude that the ongoing denigration of NHS Scotland by BLiS and their Tory allies is all malicious, politically motivated distortion, exaggeration and downright lies. So, when Dugdale starts screeching about yet another ‘crisis, we’d be well advised to be sceptical. Very sceptical!

The reality is that the majority of people get to see their GP in good time. Not all visits the the doctor are urgent. If it is, then most GP practices have arrangements for emergency appointments; or early/late sessions; or facilities to refer the patient to another doctor.

In many cases, it isn’t even necessary to see your GP. Increasingly, practice nurses are the appropriate person to see. Many have specialist skills. Some even have the authority to prescribe. Others have rapid access to persons who may prescribe on the strength of the nurse’s recommendation.

Pharmacists offer a Minor Ailments service and will often be able to provide advice and access to medication without the need for an appointment.

In short, there may not even be a problem, far less a ‘crisis’. And to whatever extent there is a problem, measures are already being taken to address this. I don’t doubt that there is scope for improvement in GP services, as there is in any endeavour. But I see absolutely no reason to put my faith in politicians who are all too evidently concerned mainly with petty politicking when we already have an administration which seems to be doing a passable job.

We might also wonder how feasible Dugdale’s ‘plan’ is, even if there was any pressing reason for it. We might ask pertinent questions such as whether GPs were consulted before she started making commitments on their behalf? At present, each practice has its own system for appointments. As must be the case with every practice being different in terms of number of doctors; number and qualifications of ancillary staff; facilities for various treatments etc.

Is Dugdale proposing that a Scottish Government under her leadership [a shiver runs down the spine] would impose on GPs a unified system for handling appointments? How would this work? Have GPs given their consent?

What about the cost? There surely will be a cost. Talk of online booking suggest yet another big government IT project. Experience tells us that those tend to be very expensive.

And the costs may not all be financial. What about the additional pressure on GPs and their staff? At present, people will be reasonable about appointments. If it is a non-urgent matter, they will be content to wait a week or more. A guaranteed 48hr waiting time changes the landscape completely. Bad enough if there is only the expectation of an immediate appointment regardless of need. Much worse if there is a contractual requirement for doctors to see patients within 48hrs without regard for clinical considerations.

This is reckless, irresponsible stuff from Dugdale. Once again she demonstrates that she is unfit for office. And that BLiS is unfit for government.