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"the cuts agendas of the London parties".
The Conservative party has confirmed that a Conservative Government at Westminster will increase NHS funding in real terms every year. Will the First Minister give the same pledge to Scotland? Will he confirm that in his next budget he will also increase NHS spending in Scotland in real terms?
I will continue to protect the national health service and other front-line services in Scotland. However, the Conservative party and all the London parties will now have to face the reality of what their spokesmen are suggesting and what they are trying not to reveal in this election campaign. In addition to the dramatic cuts in public spending that the Labour Party is proposing, the Conservatives want to cut earlier and, indeed, they are planning a special cut—a Cameron cut—in Scottish public spending. Therefore, if the London parties in this election campaign are making forecasts—and implicit in their assumptions are reductions in public spending of 10 to 15 per cent over the next few years and of much greater than that over the next 15 years—it will be difficult for any MSP representing those parties in this Parliament to say that they are the defender of public services when the budgets being pursued by Westminster threaten to cut Scotland's public services faster and deeper.
I asked a specific question about the health service, and I failed to get a specific response. We now know the truth about
Yes—I gave the answer the first time. Yes, we will, because we will continue to protect front-line services in Scotland. As we have defended the health service this year, we will defend it to the utmost extent throughout the next few years, and indeed over the many years in which the SNP will be in government.
Annabel Goldie chose not to pick up the key point that the spokesman for her party, David Cameron, and her shadow chancellor, have been making over the past two weeks: the revelation that, in addition to the billions of pounds of cuts that are to be "tougher and deeper" than those of Margaret Thatcher, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Conservative party is planning cuts that are earlier and deeper. In that context, with the London parties competing to make cuts that are tougher and deeper, how can Annabel Goldie come to this or any other chamber and tell us that she is intent on defending the national health service? If public spending is cut, that threatens vital services in Scotland. When the Tories accept the reality and join the rest of us in really defending Scottish public services, they will have an ounce of credibility with regard to the health service in Scotland.