2. People across our country are paying the price for Scottish National Party incompetence and failure at a time when they cannot afford that. In every area that this Government controls, we see mismanagement leading to billions of pounds-worth of waste. In February 2015, the then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Shona Robison, promised to end delayed discharge by the end of that year. So, can she tell members how many people have died while waiting to leave hospital, how many bed days have been lost and how much that has cost the taxpayer since she made that promise?
First, we remain absolutely committed to eradicating delayed discharge. I said that when I was health secretary, and we were absolutely determined then, as we are now.
Anas Sarwar will understand that that is challenging to do. Back then, we were on the eve of the establishment of the new integration joint boards. I think that it is fair to say that their delivery of progress on delayed discharge has been a mixed bag. That, of course, is why we want to move forward with the new national care service, which is something that Labour used to support but then opposed as soon as the SNP tried to take it forward. We will get on with the job of tackling delayed discharge while Labour just snipes from the sidelines as always.
The Deputy First Minister is in denial. Almost 4.5 million bed days have been lost, more than 2,300 people have died while waiting to leave hospital and £1.1 billion has been wasted. Shona Robison promised to end that eight years ago, long before Covid, and people are now being asked to pay for that failure during a cost of living crisis. A quarter of households face council tax rises of up to 22 per cent, which is an increase of £740 a year; there will be an income tax rise for people earning as little as £28,000; and there are now proposals for a £15-a-day charge for people driving to work. Why are working people, who have already been hit by the Tory mortgage bombshell, being asked to pay the bill for the SNP’s incompetence and failure?
On the issue of the national health service, we remain absolutely committed to eradicating delayed discharge and we will work with our partners to do that.
I notice that Anas Sarwar moved on to talk about local government finance and taxes, so let me say this about the consultation on the council tax multiplier. The consultation is looking at how we can make council tax fairer, but that joint group with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is also looking at how we could replace the council tax in the future. Here is one question that the consultation is asking: why is it that someone living in a band H property pays so much less, as a proportion of the value of their property, than someone in a band A property? As someone living in a higher-band property, I do not think that that is fair, so why does Anas Sarwar think that it is fair?
We will get on with that consultation, but it is not credible for Anas Sarwar to come here and say no to progressive taxation when it comes to income tax and to any changes in local taxation, but to demand that money be spent on public services. That is not a credible position for Anas Sarwar to take.
The SNP has been in government for 16 years and that is the best answer that Shona Robison can give. The Deputy First Minister just does not get it, so let me give her the example of a family in Cambuslang. The mum is a nurse, the dad is a teacher and they have two young kids. Their energy bills have skyrocketed and they are still paying 50 per cent, or £2,000, more than they used to. Their food bills are up almost 20 per cent; they have been hit with a mortgage increase of more than £2,000 a year and now the SNP wants to make that worse by asking both mum and dad to pay more income tax, to pay hundreds of pounds more in council tax and to pay £15 a day to get to work in Glasgow. That family is being let down by both Tory and SNP incompetence. Both Governments are making life harder for working people, so why can the Deputy First Minister not see that the people of Scotland are being asked to pay the price for SNP failure?
We know that Anas Sarwar is now getting his orders from Keir Starmer, and they are to not promise anything in terms of progressive taxation and to turn his back on raising additional funds. Anas Sarwar should remember that, if we had followed what he seems to be suggesting—the Tory tax policies—we would have £1 billion less for public services in our coffers. [
That is what Anas Sarwar seems to be saying.
Let me repeat: there is a consultation on council tax. No decisions have been made in terms of council tax increases. He should not be saying to the people of Rutherglen or anywhere else that that is the case, because that is to mislead.
Let me say to the nurse and the teacher that Anas Sarwar commented on that we have, of course, made sure that nurses are better paid in Scotland than those elsewhere in these islands by making sure that we pay through agenda for change, and teachers, of course, are better paid in Scotland than those anywhere else in these islands, because we settled with the teachers in relation to their pay claim.
We will get on with paying public workers what they deserve to be paid and supporting household incomes. Anas Sarwar will side with the Tories against progressive taxation. What a place for Labour to end up.