National Health Service (Barnett Consequentials)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st June 2018.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government has received details of the financial implications for Scotland of the United Kingdom Government’s investment in the national health service. (S5F-02503)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The information that we have managed to extract from the UK Government on the potential funding and its sources has been incomplete at best. On Tuesday, two days after its announcement, the UK Government provided a nominal profile of Barnett consequentials but, so far, has refused to confirm that there will be a net benefit to Scotland. In fact, a paper placed by the UK Government in the House of Commons library states:

“The final Barnett consequentials for all three devolved administrations will be confirmed at upcoming Fiscal Events and at the next Spending Review”.

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution has requested details from the UK Government as a matter of urgency, to ensure that Scotland is not short changed.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Has the First Minister had any guarantees at all from the Treasury that the £2 billion increase that is associated with the UK Government’s announcement will be a net increase in funding for Scotland’s budget, or could the money result in there being cuts elsewhere?

The First Minister:

I will make a couple of quick points. First, I welcome the fact that the UK Government is now talking about using tax rises to fund the NHS. It is just a pity that, when the Scottish Government increased taxes for those who can afford to pay to fund increases for our health service, the Scottish Conservatives opposed that tooth and nail and submitted tax proposals that would have taken £550 million out of the Scottish budget, which is equivalent to 12,000 nurses.

Secondly, we do not yet know that any consequentials will represent a net increase. We have some experience on that. For example, last year, when there was the promise of consequentials of £33 million from winter funding, we ended up receiving just £8.4 million of that because of the way in which the commitment was funded. Until we know from the UK Government how it intends to fund the commitment, we will not know how much there will be for the Scottish Government in consequentials. We know that none of the money will come from a Brexit dividend, because there is no such thing. However, until we know where it will come from and know that it will not involve cuts in other devolved areas, we will not know the final amount. Therefore the sooner we get that information, the better—and we will continue to press the UK Government for it.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

The First Minister is known for never wanting to seek grievance and division between England and Scotland. However, a key aspect of what she has not mentioned today is the fact that, under the Conservatives in England, health spending has grown at a rate of twice that in Scotland. Does the First Minister not accept that, since 2010, her Government has received £2.46 billion in additional Barnett consequential funding for our health service? As we celebrate the NHS turning 70, can she not find it in her heart to welcome that additional funding?

The First Minister:

When we know what the additional funding is, and if it amounts to the kind of sums that have been talked about, of course we will welcome it, but we do not know that right now. I repeat that we were previously promised £33 million but, when we saw the detail of that, it turned into £8.4 million, so forgive me, but I will wait to see the colour of the money first.

On comparisons between Scotland and England, I am not sure whether Miles Briggs is aware of this, but health spending in Scotland is £163 per person higher than it is in England—that is 8 per cent higher per head. Miles Briggs wants us to match the English levels of health spending. If we were to match levels of health spending per head in England, we would have to take £880 million out of the NHS budget. That would be the price of matching spending in England. If Miles Briggs does not mind, we will continue to fund the health service fairly in Scotland and we will continue to do so by being honest with people about the need for modest tax rises instead of pretending, as the Tories do, that there is some mythical unicorn of a Brexit dividend.