SNP Abstain On NHS Bursary Cuts

In an interview with Radio 4 last year during the General Election, then depute leader Angus Robertson pledged that SNP MPs would vote against further austerity measures in order to “protect the public not just in Scotland but across the UK”.

Last night, in an emergency debate called by Labour following the Tories plan to axe bursaries for nurses who join the profession through the fast track course, only one SNP MP - Philippa Whitford - turned up to the debate. This isn’t the first time they’ve been criticised for being AWOL on English matters, they have also been criticised for abstaining on free school meals and the implementation of universal credit.

SNP MPs will likely say that this was an English matter. But English spending has an impact on Scotland through the Barnett Formula, and their party was quite explicit in their pledge at the last election. The DUP were also criticised for voting in favour of bursary cuts while bursaries in Northern Ireland are protected.

The number of nurses joining the profession has dropped by a third in England since the abolition of bursaries for undergraduates. Chronic shortages are testing an already strained NHS - there are currently 40,000 shortages in England alone. Scotland’s NHS has also been affected by Nursing shortages, with a report by the Royal College of Nursing revealing that 51% of respondents have worked shifts that don’t meet staffing requirements.

Labour's Martin Whitfield MP said: "The SNP keep letting the Tories off the hook when they are handed the opportunity to stand up for ordinary people across the UK and indirectly boost funding for the Scottish Government through Barnett consequentials.

"This Government is weak and divided and beatable on key votes, yet the SNP appear more interested in creating a greater contrast between the systems north and south of the border purely for political advantage.

"But in fact they are merely making the case for Scotland to vote for a Labour Government which would fight for ordinary people across the UK. We have pledged to invest £600million in the NHS bursary system in England, which would result in additional funding for Scotland too.

"Whether on Universal Credit or free school meals, the SNP are soft on the Tories, when the need for a united front against them has never been greater. It's clear we need a Labour Government for the many, not the few."

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