Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:59 am on 28 October 2010.

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Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 11:59, 28 October 2010

To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Secretary of State for Scotland. (S3F-2639)

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

The SNP has promised to cut senior managers in the health service over the next four years. Can the First Minister explain how much senior non-clinician pay has increased in Scotland since that sunny day in 2007 when he became First Minister?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

As Tavish Scott well knows, it has been the Government's position for some considerable time to restrict the distinction awards in the national health service, which are the most substantial part of bonuses across the health service. We received a dusty response from the previous UK Government when Nicola Sturgeon took that initiative. Let us hope that the present Government is prepared to follow Tavish Scott's lead on this matter, if nothing else, and that the distinction awards are restricted.

On the general position, Tavish Scott should understand that, in terms of the overall public sector wage bill, there are certainly going to be great sacrifices, but we cannot cut across previously established contracts of employment. If we did that, we would end up in the Court of Session or the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. I am sure that not even the Liberal Democrats would support that.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

None of that was an answer to the question that I asked.

The accounts of Scotland's health boards show that in 2007, the number of non-clinical staff who earned more than £50,000 a year was 617. Today, it is 1,790. Alex Salmond's army of NHS managers who earn more than £50,000 a year now numbers 1,790. The total pay bill then was £34 million. Now, it is £104 million. Pay is three times higher under the SNP and the number of health board managers has trebled. How has all that happened?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Taking the pay bill of the health service, Tavish Scott seems conveniently to omit that there are far more people working in the health service now than there were in 2007.



Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Well, there are, but the bulk of the increase is in clinical staff—in nurses, doctors and dentists—compared with the deplorable position that was left by the previous Liberal-Labour Administration. Instead of taking the approach that he has taken, Tavish Scott should welcome the initiative to cut the senior managers pay bill in the health service by 25 per cent. That emphasises the front line, which is the Government's policy.

Many statistics are used to measure performance in the health service, but the one that perhaps really matters is that on public satisfaction with the national health service, and that public satisfaction is at a high in Scotland—much higher than it was when Tavish Scott was a minister. That is because of the direction that the current Administration has set and its investment in Scotland's national health service.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Is the First Minister aware of allegations about practices at a care home in my constituency of Ballieston, which the Daily Record has highlighted this week? Will he follow the investigations and make every effort to ensure that residents in care homes in Scotland and their families can be assured of a safe and caring environment?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I read the Daily Record report and asked officials to give me a briefing. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will be delighted to meet the constituency member to pursue the issue. As Margaret Curran knows, the issue is subject to a police investigation, which severely restricts what I can say. I know that that will be understood by members across the chamber. The Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care visited the home following the allegations, and it is satisfied that appropriate action is being taken to protect residents' wellbeing. The care commission will await the outcome of the police investigation before considering what further action it can take. I hope that it gives some assurance to the constituency member to know that the serious and distressing allegations are being investigated appropriately.

All members know that we have a robust regulatory system in place to protect vulnerable people. Of course, no system can guarantee that there will be no cases of abuse, but the important thing is that action is taken swiftly when incidents occur, and that is happening in the distressing case that Margaret Curran raises.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

In the past week, I have spoken to a number of farmers in Aberdeenshire and Moray who are experiencing serious difficulties with this year's harvest. What action is the First Minister's Government taking to assess the damage that has been caused to this year's harvest by severe weather conditions in the north and north-east and what actions does he propose to take to alleviate the immediate damage to the rural economy?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Assessments are being made of harvest conditions, as is done each and every year. The assessments are not yet complete, but the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment will be delighted to meet the member and constituency members from the north-east of Scotland to discuss the issue.