Neil Findlay: Shona Robison brings a new definition to the word 'crisis'
In his regular fortnightly column, Neil Findlay wonders what exactly has happened to ministerial responsibility in the Scottish Government, following the fallout from the Tayside funding crisis.
This week I have been wondering what a Minister has to do in order to lose their job in Scotland.
Shona Robison, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport since 2014, has been bringing new definition to the word ‘crisis’ in recent months.
The list of failures in her Ministerial “in tray” is lengthy and growing. A sign of the direction Scotland’s NHS is heading in.
I have family members and many friends who work in the NHS and every week at my surgeries the NHS dominates my case work and mail bag.
NHS Tayside have been caught using charitable donations to fund routine hospital equipment; Scotland is in the midst of its worst GP crisis in decades with 856 new GPs needed across the country; over 16,000 people were waiting more than 6 weeks for cancer procedures in December; in a further 16,000 people waited over an hour for an emergency ambulance over the year; Scotland has the highest level of drug deaths in Europe, three times higher than the rest of the UK; and more than 1.6 million bed days were lost last year due to delayed discharge.
In my local area, 300 people came together at a Public meeting on Tuesday night to protest at the loss of their GP service – a closure that may be initially temporary but many suspect will be permanent. A fear that is not unjustified given NHS Lothian reportedly requires an extra £31m investment just to maintain services at the current level.
Stoneyburn is not unique. This is a story being told across Scotland as the harsh budgetary restraints set by the Tories and exacerbated by the SNP continue to cut into the heart of communities that are struggling to get by.
40% of GP practices in my Lothian region have their lists closed to new patients. The age profile of a GP cannot have come as a surprise to the Scottish Government, yet the retirement of a large cohort of GPs doesn’t seem to have been factored into their workforce planning. A situation replicated in nursing where during Nicola Sturgeon’s reign as health secretary she cut nurse training numbers – the sky is now dark with chickens coming home to roost on that one.
And in social care we have had long standing providers such as Bield Housing Association closing care homes and forcing residents from the homes they have lived in for years. Across Scotland a Care home a month is closing. Such is the state of residential care we now have Scottish Care (representing Care home owners) calling for collective bargaining on pay to address workforce shortages.
And still they say crisis – what crisis?
Reflecting on past political resignations in Scotland – how things have changed!
I remember when then Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander was forced to resign over a £950 donation that was wrongly declared in her election return, a controversy that also saw Charlie Gordon lose his job as Transport Spokesperson.
Henry McLeish had to resign as First Minister due to a mistake with the renting out of office space at his constituency office in Glenrothes. An error of judgement, yes but not one that damaged anyone’s health, well-being or livelihood.
Tory leader David McLetchie resigned over taxi fares and the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson resigned over snow!
When these political resignations are measured against the impact the SNP’s policies and incompetence are having on the health and well-being of cancer patients, those who need social care, families affected by drugs, people who can’t get an appointment to see a local doctor or an ambulance when they need it, how is it the Scottish Government see themselves as immune to the same pressures?
This is about accountability, honour and the credibility of ministerial office. Under the SNP none of this appears to matter.