Remember when Voting No would Save the NHS?


Blair McDougall laughed off the SNP’s case that independence would save our NHS. England, he said, had never cut its health spending in the past, and it was silly to suggest that it ever would, and more so to claim this would hurt Scotland.

Scotland, as a principal focus of its aggression, understands the nature of London’s political establishment. Since Thatcher introduced the trifecta of neoliberal Reaganomics – wholesale privatisation, deep social spending cuts, and tax cuts for the rich – in the 1980s the people of Scotland have been the testing ground for UK wide implementation. Both the SNP and the entire independence movement knew throughout the referendum campaign that the NHS, not only in Scotland where it was already being squeezed but in England and Wales too, was on the firing line. Where Better Together set up one scare tactic after another, Yes Scotland knew from the get-go that the real fear was that remaining in the union would cost us the National Health Service.


During August 2014 the Westminster-Edinburgh debate shifted to the questions surrounding the NHS, with David Cameron calling Alex Salmond a “desperate man” for suggesting that England’s plan to privatise healthcare would lead to cuts, and that this austerity agenda would travel north to Scotland. Better Together campaign manager Blair McDougall set in about the SNP, claiming the party’s suggestion was preposterous – following the problematic reasoning that because England had never in the past cut its NHS budget it never would. The reasoning from London was that Scotland’s NHS was a matter for Salmond’s government, failing to mention of course that the total budget of Scotland remained at the UK government’s discretion.

As we all know, the British media machine and Westminster’s political spin won the day and Yes Scotland’s concerns over the future of the health service were written off as scaremongering. Now, some while after the independence referendum, the privatisation of England’s NHS has advanced and – as Salmond had predicted – the cuts have begun. Broader austerity measures (a synonym for neoliberalism and the Thatcherite agenda) have resulted in Westminster tightening the purse in Scotland, forcing the Edinburgh government to spend less money (Westminster imposed cuts). When there’s a shark in the water, you see, it’s not scaremongering to tell people so – it’s bloody damn helpful. So we voted No and the NHS is on the chopping block.

In spite of the fact that the SNP proposed including the safeguarding of our health service in an independent Scotland’s constitution, the one surety the No campaign was willing to offer us (other than its own relentless fear mongering) turned out to be a lie. Now that they have, at least for the time being, secured the union, they have resumed their usual programme of cuts to benefit the privileged. Talk has shifted from their vow to protect healthcare to the same, tired old rhetoric of an aging population making the NHS “unaffordable.” It will be worth pointing out that Scotland’s health budget is £13 billion – probably less than half the cost of renewing Trident.


Junior Doctor on Jeremy Hunt (the cuts that would never come)


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