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Programme for Government 2013-14

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th September 2013.

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Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I am just coming to health.

I want to compare the health service in Scotland—where we have independent control of health under this Parliament—with the health service in England. Fact number 1: in England they are privatising the health service, but we are keeping it in the public sector. Who started the privatisation? The Labour Party.

Fact number 2: we have free prescriptions, while the poor folk in England have to pay nearly £8 for theirs. Fact number 3: we have more nurses per head of population than any other part of the United Kingdom. Fact number 4: we have more GPs per head of population than any other part of the UK. Fact number 5: according to Professor Don Berwick, Obama’s adviser and Cameron’s adviser on the health service in England, we have the safest health service in the world.

I have been listening to the nonsense from Neil Findlay and his predecessor Jackie Baillie, to the point that I am looking forward to Helen Eadie taking up the post—I think that she will be a big improvement. Last week, we were criticised by Neil Findlay because we went public and transparent with the hospital standardised mortality rates in the two Lanarkshire hospitals. The standardised mortality rate has improved by 12 per cent over the past five years. Labour cannot say that, because it did not measure the hospital standardised mortality rate. Labour did not bother about patient safety: it did not measure what the reality was in its hospitals and it had no definition of an adverse event. The reality is that, under Nicola Sturgeon and now under me, the NHS in Scotland has grown and prospered, and we will continue to make it a service that the Scottish people can be proud of.

Power is about what we can achieve. I have been listening very carefully to Labour. Over the summer, I was waiting for some speeches by Johann Lamont, but there were none—she was clearly hibernating along with Ed Miliband. I have been listening to the speeches by Labour members over the past two days and they have been a constant stream of moaning and groaning and criticism. The one thing that we have not heard from them is one new policy idea—in fact, we have not even heard any of their old policy ideas—and that is why Labour is languishing so much in the polls.

A classic example of Labour’s real problem is the party’s campaign on the independence referendum. People who believe in the fundamentals of the labour movement—people who believe in a more equal society, in getting rid of poverty and in full employment—cannot achieve any of those things as long as we remain part of the UK. There is only one hope for Scotland to realise the dreams of our people. It is not true to say that we do not believe in devolution—we are proud of the Parliament’s achievements. Our criticism is that the Parliament’s powers are far, far too limited, which means that we cannot implement the far-reaching agenda that we need to put in place for a 21st century Scotland.