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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A healthy attitude

When reading articles in the unionist media, it is invariably a good idea to skip to the final paragraphs first. That is where the important information tends to be buried. Information which frequently refutes, or at least casts doubt, on the spin of the article.

Here we have a case in point. The entire piece is contrived to convey the impression of ‘secret’ plans to slash local NHS services. Only in the final paragraph are we informed that “there are no proposals for closure of any of these services”. Read that final section first, and the rest of the story takes on a very surreal quality.

What this is really about is more efficient use of increasingly strained resources within the NHS. It is certainly true that people react negatively to the threat of losing local services. Those are the buttons that this article is aiming to press, with little evident justification. But, in large part, opposition to what is euphemistically termed ‘rationalisation’ of services is driven by irresponsible politicisation of the issue as parties seek advantage in being seen to ‘stand up for local communities’. (And I do mean all the political parties. The SNP is not innocent in this regard.) To whatever extent there is caution (or ‘secrecy’) surrounding discussion of reorganisation within NHS Scotland (and, again, all parties are guilty of this), it is to a considerable extent understandable given the way highly emotive language tends to get bandied around whenever the subject comes up.

People are not stupid. Something that politicians need to be constantly reminded of. People understand that there are practical problems in providing the kind of health care service that most of us value. Explaining the problems and proposed solutions would surely be preferable to turning every change into a political dispute in which the facts are buried under an avalanche of rhetoric.

Let’s get real! Having to travel a few miles in order to undergo a procedure is not, for most people, the horrific prospect so theatrically portrayed by politicians and their pals in the press. It is a long time since Kelty to Edinburgh was a two-day journey only to be undertaken by those with significant resources and very pressing reasons. Outrage at the prospect of travelling from Perth to Dundee to get treatment for a particular condition would hardly exist if it wasn’t being driven by self-serving politicians and sensationalist media.

Can we all just calm down and take a rational approach to ensuring that NHS Scotland can continue to be a genuinely public health service.