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Post-Brexit Trade Agreements (Drugs)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st November 2019.

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Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the potential impact on NHS Scotland, what its response is to concerns that the United Kingdom might reach trade agreements following Brexit that could lead to an increase in the price of drugs. (S5O-03794)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

It should be deeply concerning to every member in the chamber, as it is to us in Government, that a future trade deal by the UK Government with either the USA or anyone else could increase drug prices in Scotland.

Research by Dr Andrew Hill of the University of Liverpool has observed that, if we had to pay for medicines at the same per capita rate as the USA, medicines prices could more than double.

Given the damage that could be done by the dilution of arrangements to manage medicines costs in the national health service by future trade deals, it is very disappointing that Labour and Conservatives members voted yesterday against the protection of the NHS through an NHS protection bill.

The next Westminster Parliament needs to pass the protection bill as a matter of urgency—u nfortunately, the powers to do so still reside with it—and all parties need to support the bill and stop working across their unionist ideologies in order to prevent it.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party

We know that Brexit is by far the biggest threat to our NHS and that the Tory-Trump trade deal risks opening it up to unprecedented levels of private involvement. Does the cabinet secretary agree that, if parties are really genuine in their commitment to keep the NHS out of trade deals, no party should be unable to back an NHS protection bill that is put forward in the UK Parliament, which would give the parties in this Parliament a second bite at the cherry?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I absolutely agree with Gil Paterson. NHS protection legislation is self-evidently the right thing to do, and it is genuinely beyond my understanding that those who constantly thank our NHS staff and tell us that they will protect the NHS are not willing to offer their support for something so straightforward, which would protect our NHS from trade deals that could undoubtedly damage that national service.

This Government and this party, which I am proud to belong to, will always support our NHS, and we will do everything that we can to protect it. We will continue to press hard for that legislative protection, and I really hope that other members in the chamber will reconsider their positions and join us.