Salmond: NHS pledge to be included in Scottish constitution

13 Aug 14
First Minister Alex Salmond has promised Scottish voters that a publicly owned National Health Service, free at the point of delivery and prioritised according to clinical need, would be entrenched in the written constitution of an independent Scotland.

By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 13 August 2014

First Minister Alex Salmond has promised Scottish voters that a publicly owned National Health Service, free at the point of delivery and prioritised according to clinical need, would be entrenched in the written constitution of an independent Scotland.

The pledge was accompanied by a claim from Salmond’s deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, that the UK coalition’s benefit reforms would leave more than 100,000 disabled people in Scotland worse off by 2018.

It marks a conscious shift of approach by the campaign for a Yes vote in next month’s independence referendum, to mirror the No campaign’s controversial ‘Project Fear’ strategy by highlighting what they claim would be negative consequences for Scotland of remaining within the UK.

The new approach is expected to be applied to a range of public services over the weeks remaining before the September 18 vote, and to be underpinned by claims that UK budget stringency will increasingly hurt Scots, regardless of who wins next May’s Westminster general election.

Although health is devolved to Holyrood and, despite a poll this week suggesting that three in five Scottish doctors intend to vote No, Salmond insisted that the spread of privatisation within the NHS south of the border would have a detrimental impact on Scottish provision, through consequential spending adjustments made under the Barnett Formula which determines Scotland’s share of UK spending.

‘For me, that is not a simple matter of policy – it’s a fundamental part of Scotland’s national identity,’ Salmond said.

‘With independence we have the opportunity to enshrine [Aneurin] Bevan’s founding principles for our NHS in the written constitution for Scotland – publicly owned, clinically-driven and freely delivered equally for all.’

Meanwhile, Sturgeon was today leading a Holyrood debate on the welfare system in the wake of a new Scottish Government report which projects that UK reforms to the Disability Living Allowance, aimed at cutting £310m from the benefits bill in Scotland, would leave 105,000 disabled Scots facing reduced or withdrawn benefits.

At present, some 190,000 people in Scotland receive DLA, 50,000 of them also receiving the enhanced rate mobility payment, which is worth between £1,800 and nearly £3,000 a year. But the UK reforms will significantly tighten eligibility for this payment, and ultimately replace DLA in 2018 with the Personal Independence Payment.

Sturgeon claimed that this would mean 105,000 people losing some or all of their DLA benefit by 2018.

‘I am deeply, deeply concerned about the impact of any welfare cuts on a whole range of people, but particularly on disabled people,’ she said in a BBC interview this morning.

But Alex Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ welfare spokesman, argued that the UK coalition was trying to prioritise need, and that Sturgeon’s figures failed to take full account of people who would shift from receiving disability-based payments to the new out-of-work benefits. He accused the deputy first minister of seeking to frighten voters ahead of the referendum.

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