E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Posts Tagged ‘SNP’

Scottish National Priority: how the SNP leadership contest could shape the NHS

This SNP leadership election will, for the first time in almost a decade put a new face at the forefront of Scottish politics.

While independence is unsurprisingly at the top of the agenda for the candidates, healthcare is a key battleground: a recent Ipsos poll found the NHS is the issue of greatest concern for Scottish voters.

Scotland is facing a healthcare crisis. The gap in life expectancy between the least and most deprived areas now stands at 13.3 years for men and 9.8 years for women, A&E waiting times are increasing, and the Government is set to miss key targets this year in NHS recruitment and tackling elective waiting lists.

How do the leadership candidates plan to address the healthcare crisis?

Humza Yousaf

With almost two years of health and social care experience under his belt, Humza Yousaf expectedly has the most developed set of healthcare policy goals, stating that he will make the NHS a priority as First Minister. As such, his ability to follow through on campaign commitments will be closely scrutinised if he is selected at the end of March.

Kate Forbes

Kate Forbes has also leant on her experience as Finance Secretary for the policy basis of her campaign.

Uniting both Forbes and Yousaf is their commitment to delivering the controversial National Care Service, an NHS-style centrally managed care service pitched as a solution to social care. Scottish Labour has framed the plans as a ‘power grab’ from local authorities; however, given the state of the social care sector across the rest of the UK, the SNP’s ‘top two’ are eager to promote Scotland’s solution.

Ash Regan

Despite being the clear underdog in the contest, the third and final leadership candidate, Ash Regan, proposes solutions that demonstrate the political breadth of the SNP.

While Ash Regan is unlikely to triumph in the contest, she represents the scale of the challenge that Kate Forbes or Humza Yousaf will have in uniting the Party to tackle the issue of greatest concern to Scottish voters, and the broad spectrum of policy ideas that lie within it.

Regardless of who is voted in as Party leader, the Health and Social Care in-tray will be busier than every other department. Before the next General Election, the incoming First Minister, and their new Health and Social Care Minister will need to drive significant improvements in healthcare if they want to have any chance of matching the flawless electoral performance of their predecessor.

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Scotland needs Labour and Labour needs Scotland

I attended the Scottish Labour Party conference in Edinburgh at the weekend. It took place two days after the shock news of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation. As a consequence, the mood amongst delegates was jubilant. The overwhelming feeling was that change is coming and a belief that the SNP’s grip on Scotland is finally loosening.  A YouGov study in the days before the First Minister’s resignation showed 29% support for the SNP, 27% for Labour and only 12% for the Conservatives. Labour now strongly believes that with the hugely popular Sturgeon gone they will receive a further electoral boost.

However, despite the buoyant atmosphere, key figures were keen to urge caution. Pat McFadden, Shadow Chief Secretary, speaking at a Labour Friends of Scotland fringe meeting, stressed that the enormity of the task ahead in delivering a Labour victory could not be underestimated. And both leaders, Anas Sarwar and Sir Keir Starmer, warned against complacency in their keynote speeches. The focus was very much on the need for economic growth and the failure of both governments, SNP in Holyrood and Tories in Westminster, to deliver what the electorate needs and deserves.

Meanwhile, the infighting amongst the SNP leadership challengers spilled over into the Scottish media. Nicola’s announcement clearly took them all by surprise. Her deputy, John Swinney, ruled himself out almost immediately. Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary, and Ash Regan, a former minister, threw their respective hats in the ring. Angus Robertson, rumoured to be Sturgeon’s preference, has said he will not run and Cabinet Secretary, Kate Forbes, the current favourite according to polls, announced her intention to stand earlier today.

Back in the conference venue, the First Minster’s “legacy” was much-derided. Scotland’s denuded public services, the parlous state of the economy, unprecedented levels of poverty and the worst drugs record in Europe were all laid squarely at her door. She, and by extension her Government, had failed the people of Scotland and it is down to Labour to provide solutions. And for once, it did not feel as if this was Labour Party delusion. New candidates for the next election, including former International Trade Secretary, Douglas Alexander, were credible and inspiring. The optimism and need for change amongst the delegates was palpable.

Scotland was Labour’s original Red Wall, losing 40 out of its 41 seats in 2015. Based on recent Scottish polls, and bolstered by UK Labour’s poll lead, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the party could win 25 seats next year. The outcome of the next election now lies as much in Midlothian as it does in the Midlands. Anas Sarwar deserves enormous credit for this spectacular turnaround and I predict a host of senior Labour figures visiting the length and breadth of Scotland in the next 18 months now that this realisation has dawned.

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