Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:54 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health Team Member) 4:54 pm, 18th November 2020

This global pandemic has shaken the lives of so many. The pain from the loss of loved ones, friends and colleagues has been compounded by redundancy or business failure, as support for key sectors has failed to materialise or people have found themselves excluded from the UK Government schemes. As we now pin our collective hopes on the brightest and the best delivering promising vaccine candidates into clinical use, we must turn our minds to our recovery and how we choose to build a better, greener and fairer future for our communities.

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to those who have contributed to the spirit of community across my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency. First, I pay tribute to Tricia Marwick, the chair of the NHS Fife board, and to its members, to Dr Chris McKenna, the medical director, and Helen Buchanan, the director of nursing, and to every single member of staff on the frontline, to whom we owe so much.

I would also like to pay tribute to the local media outlets—the Fife Free Press, the Central Fife Times, K107 community radio and Kingdom FM—all of which have helped my constituents stay informed and updated and have kept us all safe. I pay tribute to the many community lifeline groups, such as the Cottage Family Centre, which aims to ensure that no child or family goes hungry, cold or without presents this Christmas; Love Cowdenbeath, whose online presence has been supporting the local community and retailers; and Linton Lane Centre, which sadly, like other groups across my constituency, had to cancel its annual Christmas day meal for seniors, but will aim to distribute 100 hampers to those who would have attended.

There are so many other examples that I simply do not have time to mention, but the spirit of community that has emerged from this dreadful pandemic is built on hope and an aspiration to do better by our neighbours and, like much of my constituency, is bursting with vision, ambition and confidence that a better future is possible.

Such a future is possible, but it is imperilled by decisions made in this place, led by a Prime Minister who considers our considerable achievements in government and our shared aspirations a mistake and does not see a case for further consideration. I put it to the House that, in our recovery from covid-19, it is the independent countries that will do better. By following the path of regaining democratic control of our own country, our people will be richer, our influence for good greater and our future brighter.

However, the PM’s unguarded words have undermined even article 19 of the Acts of Union, which he purports to uphold. He poured scorn on Scots’ ability to make their own laws while, in his words,

“free-riding on English taxpayers”,

describing it as “simply unjust”. I would be interested to know if the Minister genuinely thinks that the people of Scotland believe that a Government with such an appalling track record—of austerity, welfare cuts, the two-child cap, the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and the unfair manner in which the Women Against State Pension Inequality have been treated—are uniquely benevolent when it comes to Scotland. Of course she does not, and the facts expose the mendacity of that obtuse notion.

It is a matter of record that in each of the 30 years prior to the introduction of “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland”, Scotland generated more tax revenue per head for the UK Treasury than the rest of the UK. If the Minister believes that with 8.2% of the population Scotland creates between 50% and 60% of the UK deficit, will she please direct me to where that money was spent and by whom? Will she also tell me why the people of Scotland should have any confidence in this place to help Scotland build a better future post covid? I can provide the Minister with the answer: they do not.

According to the latest gold-standard Scottish social attitudes survey, 61% of people say they trust the Scottish Government to work in the national interest, but just 15% trust the UK Government to do likewise. The gulf is even wider when it comes to leadership. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating in Scotland is 100 points above that of the Prime Minister, with one commentator—a Unionist, as it happens—stating today that

“that is the good news” for the Prime Minister, since he suspects that he has

“not yet reached rock bottom”.

That distrust will only grow as the cronyism at the heart of this Government continues to be exposed. Today the National Audit Office released its damning report on the UK Government’s procurement practices during the pandemic, which confirms what we have been saying for months about a Government failing to manage conflicts of interest, doling out public money to clearly unsuitable companies and improperly avoiding scrutiny.