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Money is being invested in health and social care integration. Health spending per head is 7.1 per cent higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole, which represents £850 million more in spending on health services in Scotland. Given that Labour has brought the debate to the chamber, it is worth remembering that Labour’s spending plans for health at the last Scottish election would have seen our NHS cut by being £360 million worse off—that is the equivalent of 9,000 nurses.
Rather than deliver the full funding, the UK Government has cut our budget by almost £55 million next year and by more than £270 million over its five-year plan. However, despite the UK Government’s cuts to Scotland’s budget, an additional £66 million will be provided to local government to support the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which I hope will be welcomed by everyone.
The Scottish Government’s priority is to ensure that the needs of people who experience care come first and that their rights and choices are respected. Within the past decade, a significant amount of work and investment has gone into supporting older people and people with disabilities to live well in their homes for longer. As a population, we are living longer, which means that demand for care and support is growing faster than our traditional services were designed for. The challenge of looking after our ageing population in the future is one that we all must face head on. As other members have mentioned, Scotland is the only part of the UK to have implemented free personal care for older people and will be the only part to implement it for people under 65. All in all, we have a system that, although it is not perfect, is much fairer.
In general, there has been cross-party political consensus on the issue of integration. Given the importance of the issue, that is right. This is the second time in a week that I have spoken on the issue after contributing to Monica Lennon’s members’ business debate last week—a debate that was used to criticise decisions by an SNP council to reduce the need for care homes and support independent living. I pointed out at the time that those decisions were initiated under the Labour administration—and rightly, too. In that debate, Monica Lennon and her colleagues failed to address the fact that neighbouring North Lanarkshire Council, which is under Labour control, is now down to just one care home. I am not going to be a hypocrite, however, as I agree with that situation—it is a sign that we are supporting more people to live at home.