SNP is failing NHS by placing separation over health of nation

NICOLA Sturgeon unveils her ‘net zero’ programme for government today, which coincidentally sums up the number of new ideas she has.

There’s likely to be zero dynamism — and net zero interest in anything other than keeping her new Green partners sweet, while pushing the same old separatist agenda.

You might wonder what good is a ‘net zero’ or decarbonised society if we’re all too sick to enjoy it — and that’s the way we’re heading with the NHS in dire straits.

More than 600,000 people are languishing on waiting lists and the NHS 24 phone line is struggling to cope with a deluge of patients who have given up on trying to get an in-person doctor’s appointment.

As we revealed yesterday, family doctors are seeing fewer than half of their patients at the practice — with the rest diagnosed, or perhaps misdiagnosed, via phone, email and video calls.

The cost of keeping patients out of the surgeries that their taxes pay for is unknown — but it will be steep, and measured in chronic suffering and lost lives.

Accident and emergency waiting times are at their highest level for six years, again a consequence of patients being unable to see their GPs at physical appointments, while operations are being cancelled.

The government claims it wants more face-to-face care — while actively planning for a boost to remote consultation and treatment.

So much for the SNP’s grand claim to be the protector-in-chief of the NHS ahead of the 2014 referendum, warding off the threat of Tory privatisation.

That was false back then, but now it’s exposed again as a sick charade by a party willing to say or do pretty much anything to secure a pro-independence vote.

Blair McDougall, former head of Better Together, gamely waded through a treatise by former SNP minister Mike Russell, published shortly before Mr Russell joined the SNP Cabinet in 2007.

With the not very promising title of Grasping The Thistle, it advocated a surprising policy — wholesale NHS privatisation, with people signing up to ‘competitive national medical insurance schemes’.

As Mr McDougall notes in his blog, ‘often the problem with the anti-Scexit side of the debate is that we don’t use the piles of ammunition left for us by nationalists’.

The fact that the new head of the SNP’s campaign for independence — Mr Russell’s current role — argued that the NHS should be privatised hasn’t stopped the current hierarchy railing against nasty Conservatives who are allegedly (but not really) opposed to state-funded healthcare.

The SNP manifesto for this year’s Holyrood election said independence would give Scotland the right to ‘protect our NHS from Tory governments’.

There was no mention of the fact that a ‘Tory Government’ masterminded the Covid vaccination drive, though the SNP has come close to making a hash of rolling it out.

Plenty of hypocrisy around, then, but it’s clear that the ramshackle rhetoric about standing up for the NHS have never rung so hollow.

Humza Yousaf: the health minister presiding over a crisis

Of course, the SNP and its supporters will point out, as Miss Sturgeon does roughly every five seconds, that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic.

Scotland is a Covid hotspot, and that has happened on the watch of a First Minister who only a matter of months ago was banging on about the supposed success of her ‘zero Covid’ policy.

Zero features a lot in Miss Sturgeon’s political vocabulary — though it must also describe the number of Scots who think she’s able to get Covid under control.

Yet the NHS (and remember Miss Sturgeon was once Health Secretary) was in crisis long before Covid arrived on our shores.

Staff shortages and long waiting lists meant we started from a weak position when the virus swept in — it only served to exacerbate underlying problems.

Most of us could just about live with an NHS that was trying to do its best — even if our taxes only ever seem to go up.

But coronavirus took a vital public service in desperate need of reform — and is in danger of leaving large swathes of it in smouldering ruins.

Now we’re stuck with a dysfunctional service still stuffed full of fat-cat managers on six-figure salaries — but mired in mind-boggling backlogs.

The NHS really needed to be protected from the Nationalists, not the Tories — the SNP was the real bogeyman all along.

Only a few years ago, the Audit Scotland public spending watchdog, a thorn in the side of the SNP, pointed out that the NHS was financially unsustainable.

SNP ministers had their fingers in their ears as the alarm bells rang out at deafening volume — and now patients are paying the price of their incompetence.

Asked by the BBC at the weekend if the system was in crisis, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: ‘No, it’s the most significant challenge the NHS has ever faced.’

Mind you, Dr Lewis Morrison, chairman of the British Medical Association Scotland, said hospitals had been short of staff and resources for so long that ‘crisis’ was normal — so who do you believe?

Back in May, while he was still Justice Secretary, Mr Yousaf said he would seek to ‘delegitimise’ the UK rule of law when he believes it is right to do so, and claimed that the public looked to him to be a ‘voice of justice’.

He was also branded ‘foolish’ by a former UK terror watchdog for blocking plans to give terrorists lie detector tests as a condition of parole, potentially jeopardising public safety.

Sex crime and violent offending are rising — and we know prosecutors privately believe there is ‘absolutely no sign’ of a sustained reduction in serious crime.

If that was Mr Yousaf’s legacy on justice (his hapless successor Keith Brown has now taken up the reins), what impact will he have on the NHS?

We can only hope — given his past record — that it will be broadly neutral, as any hope of an improvement is probably futile.

But should a man who believes the rule of law must be ‘delegitimised’ in certain cases hold any office of state, let alone the health brief — now arguably the biggest job in government?

The NHS needs a strong economy to prosper, but the SNP has teamed up with the anti-capitalist Greens, a small group of radicals who now wield disproportionate power — we’ll see just how much when Miss Sturgeon unveils her agenda for government today.

NHS staff and patients deserve better than the hypocrisy of a tired administration that ranks its own ideological fixation higher than the health of the nation.

Coronavirus has shaken the world and turned every aspect of our lives upside down — and the medics who have kept the NHS afloat during that terrifying storm deserve immense praise.

But once again they’re being let down by political masters who preach ‘progressive’ policies while presiding over the virtual meltdown of a treasured public service that can no longer take the strain.

*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

*Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant

Home Affairs Editor, columnist, leader writer, Scottish Daily Mail. Twitter: @GrahamGGrant Facebook: @sdmnewspaper