Sep 052014

Big SandyWith thanks to Jonathan Russell, Aberdeen CND.

Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s giant, Big Sandy, will be visiting Aberdeen to encourage people to vote Yes between 2-4pm this Saturday 6th September in the square outside Marks and Spencer’s.
Big Sandy is a ten feet tall puppet. He first appeared at the West End Festival in Glasgow in June.

Since then he has helped the Yes campaign on the streets and at major public events all across Scotland.

Jonathan Russell Chair of Aberdeen and District Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament stated:

“Central to the Independence debate is the getting rid of Nuclear Weapons from Scottish Soil. A non-nuclear Scotland will also be enshrined in a Scottish Constitution Getting rid of Nuclear weapons from Scotland will make it exceedingly difficult for the remaining UK to place the existing or new era missiles anywhere in the remaining UK “

Also attending on Saturday, North East MSP Christian Allard said:

“Weapons of mass destruction have no place in a modern Scotland. Labour and the coalition parties at Westminster are committed to the irrational and costly renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons system – only a Yes vote in September will guarantee Scottish waters are Trident free.  I urge any undecided voters to come along to the St Nicholas Centre on Saturday and learn about the opportunities for an independent Scotland.”

For more information contact:

John Ainslie, Coordinator, Scottish CND,
0141 357 1529 07442 500476

or Jonathan Russell, Aberdeen CND
tel 01224 586435
Mobile 07582456233

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Aug 292014

“Just the way I see it” writes Keith Marley.

scotland2As I understand it the Scottish Government is currently responsible for 7% of taxes raised in Scotland. However it does have the ability to reallocate some, if not all, of the funds it receives from Westminster.
As a result we have a superior education system at all levels, a not perfect but superior health service, free university places for Scottish students, free prescriptions, free travel for the elderly and have even done away with toll bridges, yet despite all these benefits I am not aware of any services or standards which are in any way substandard to the rest of the UK.

Our country has massive oil reserves with enough oil discovered in the North Sea already to ensure prosperity for at least the next 3 generations.

We are at the forefront of renewable energy technology with 25% of Europe’s tidal and wind potential. All this in addition to our successful, established industries in Whisky, Tourism, Manufacturing, Construction, Agriculture and the Creative industries from fashion to computer games which is enough to make us a wealthy country even if we didn’t have oil.

Here’s the bit I don’t understand……If we vote ‘Yes’ we will have complete control over our whole economy, but if we vote ‘No’ we may be given some more powers such as raising taxes.

I don’t know about anybody else but the promise of paying increased tax hasn’t swung my vote yet. As for these other ‘powers’ there seems to be much shuffling of feet and unconfirmed mumbled answers. Of course it will all depend on who is in power if and when Scotland actually becomes independent.

It seems to me that just as many in Westminster will take a ‘No’ vote as a good enough reason to put an end to the Barnett formula resulting in a decrease in money coming back to Scotland as well as fewer M.P.s which means less representation for Scottish interests.

If we vote ‘Yes’ we are told we will lose the pound, but I think, and I suspect the majority of Scots also think, that this will also be detrimental to the rest of the UK and simply political posturing. If not, there are other options many of which are becoming more appealing as time goes on.

We are told that an independent Scotland will no longer enjoy the status of ‘being a world power’ influencing international politics. That suits me just fine, I didn’t agree with getting involved in Iraq or Afghanistan any more than I agreed with the conflict with Argentina over the Falkland isles. If we are no longer a nuclear force then I am confident we will be no longer a nuclear target either.

We have been told by the ‘No’ campaign that we will be out of the E.U. which frankly, seems to be strange threat for 2 reasons.

Why would Europe not welcome a country with a strong economy, which already meets all the standards and criteria for acceptance as well as having Europe’s main oil reserves, wind and wave potential and is Europe’s main provider of fish as well as being an existing trading partner with strong import and export links already established? It seems to me that there will be a rush to ‘fast track’ Scotland as quickly as possible.

The second reason for my doubt about this being a potential threat is the fact that the UK government has already promised (if re-elected) to hold a referendum about staying in the EU which judging by the recent U-KIP wins could well result in Scotland being pulled out of the EU like it or not along with the rest of the UK.

I am not affiliated to any political party and my hope is that come independence and Scotland’s first general election I will be able to vote for a party that truly reflects my own opinions and desires.

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Aug 292014

Eilidh Whiteford

With thanks to Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

Nobody likes to go to the dentist – least of all me. But the only thing worse than the dentist is not having an NHS dentist when you need one, which was the situation for thousands of people in Scotland, including the north-east, until just a few years ago.

One of the early steps taken by the Scottish Government in 2007 was to open a new dental school in Aberdeen and significantly increase the numbers of trainee dentists and increase the level of NHS dental provision across the country.

Just this week, figures were released showing that there’s been a 30% rise in the number of NHS dentists since the SNP came to power, and that over ninety per cent of children are now registered with an NHS dentist, compared to 67% in 2007,  and 84% of adults compared to just 46%.

One of the big questions being asked in the independence debate over the past few weeks has been the future of our health service following either a Yes or No vote.

While NHS Scotland is entirely devolved, spending decisions made in England determine the amount of money allocated to Scotland to pay for public services.In Scotland we’ve chosen to keep our NHS in public hands. We do not charge patients for prescription medicines, and we’re investing in new and upgraded hospital facilities.

We’ve also honoured the pay agreement made with nurses, and ensure that everyone working for our NHS is paid a living wage. Our NHS is not always perfect, and faces some real pressures as the baby-boomer generation starts requiring more age-related healthcare. Nonetheless, most of us depend on access to NHS care and value the service we receive.

The story in NHS England is very different. As the NHS there has been gradually broken up and the lucrative bits privatised, a number of Health Boards have gone bankrupt, waiting times have soared, and there’s a total post-code lottery of care. The Westminster Health and Social Care Act 2012 has big implications for the funding of NHS services in Scotland because the expected cuts to spending down south will have a knock on impact on the money allocated to the Scottish Government.

In Scotland we contribute more revenue to the UK Treasury per head of population than the rest of the UK – and have done so in every one of the last 33 years. However, Westminster remains in full control of the amount of money we get back.

This ‘block grant’ calculated through the Barnett Formula is dependent on the UK’s spending priorities, so cuts to health and social care services in England reduce Scotland’s allocation. For every £100 cut to England’s NHS expenditure, £10 will be cut from Scotland’s budget. It’s a convoluted system, rather akin to handing your next door neighbour the entirety of your salary, and receiving pocket money back.

With a Yes vote, the power to set our budget in line with our priorities will enable us to continue to provide healthcare free at the point of need.

With a No vote, the situation is far more uncertain. Many respected authorities believe England won’t have an NHS in 5 years time, and if we follow Westminster’s path, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain services here. We also know that we face big cuts in the block grant in the event of a No vote, with all the UK parties promising cuts to the Barnett Formula, and more austerity.

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take Scotland’s future into our own hands in September. With powers over our own budgets we can provide security for our NHS, and set ourselves priorities suited to our own needs and circumstances.

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Aug 222014

sheridancopthorneWith thanks to Dave Watt.

Tommy Sheridan is in Aberdeen on Wednesday 3rd of September at the Copthorne Hotel in Huntly Street as part of the Hope Not Fear Tour where he has spoken at venues all over Scotland alongside YES campaigners David Hayman and Ian Hamilton to over 15,000 people in the last eight months.

Thumbnail image credit: “TommySheridan2007” by D. Natanson – Self-photographed. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Aug 152014
Struan King - European Elections Polling Station

Struan King believes the value placed on the youth vote needs to change.

With thanks to Struan King.

Two young people from Aberdeen have written to Jenny Laing and Mike Russell calling for 16 and 17 year olds to be allowed time off school to vote in the referendum.
Aberdeen Central’s two MSYPs have asked whether those in school and who are registered to vote could be allowed to miss out some of their school day to visit their local polling station and cast their ballots.

Struan King is the former Chairperson of Aberdeen City Youth Council 2013-14

Struan King MSYP commented:

Young people are those who will be most affected by the Scottish Question and as such it is essential that they are given every possible opportunity to get involved.

 Voting is a key part of the democratic process and that is something that is now part of the Curriculum for Excellence being taught in schools. Rather than preaching the importance of taking part in politics, we hope that they can instead be given time to actually make their mark.”

“As part of the run-up to the September Vote we as MSYP aim to reach as many young people as possible and will be supporting a variety of engagement activities in Aberdeen”

Michael Hutchison added:

“This would be a simple and practical measure to ensure that young people have the opportunity to actually cast their vote.

“Allowing those who have registered to vote to take a short time out of school to get to and from the polling station shouldn’t be asking for too much.

“I hope that this suggestion will be considered and I would be delighted if it helped lead to increased turnout among young people.”


Struan King MSYP commented:

“It is common practice for young people to be excluded from participating in the democratic process; the value placed on the youth vote needs to change.”

“No matter how they vote we want to ensure they do vote and do so informed and empowered”

“There are so many issues that affect young people and very few elected members are actively consulting or championing their voices. What we as a Youth Parliament do is step up to ensure every young person has their voice and has the information to get involved.”


Struan King MSYP commented:

“Extending the Vote to 16 & 17 year olds is a landmark for Scottish politics. The acid test will come post September in how this historic opportunity is carried forward; has the referendum re-engaged youth and will we see more young people involved in all levels of the democratic process.”

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Aug 152014

Alex Salmond MSP on a recent visit to an Aberdeenshire food bank

Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond says Scottish pensioners will be better off in an independent Scotland after considerable cuts to Savings Credit by the UK Government. Submitted by Ann-Marie Parry, Parliamentary Assistant, Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP

Benefits for the north-east’s poorest pensioners have been reduced by £3million since 2010, with a cut of £90million for Scotland as a whole.

Research by the House of Commons Library has shown 50,000 Scottish pensioners have lost benefits since 2010 with a cut of £90 million to Savings Credit, and pensioners across Scotland will lose out further as the benefit is to be scrapped for all new pensioners in 2016.

The cut has had a substantial impact on pensioners in every part of Scotland with 1,900 fewer people receiving it in Aberdeenshire – a reduction of £3,075,344.

Savings Credit is paid to poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement. A single pensioner could receive up to £20.52 per week, or £27.09 per week for a couple.

As set out in the White Paper Scotland’s Future, following a Yes vote the Scottish Government will provide Scotland’s pensioners with a guaranteed pension of £160 a week from 2016-17, a triple lock and the continuation of Savings Credit.

Mr Salmond said:

“Scotland’s pensioners who have worked hard for their retirement are being hit hardest by these cuts.

“The UK Government has taken away £90million from some of Scotland’s most vulnerable residents since 2010 and in Aberdeenshire alone the benefit has been slashed by more than £3million.

“There are now 1,900 fewer recipients of savings credit in Aberdeenshire than there were four years ago despite Scotland paying more in taxes in each of the last 30 years than the rest of the UK.

“It is a pity that the people who have made these contributions and are now in retirement are not enjoying the benefits of their hard work.

“A Yes vote in September will mean that Scotland’s wealth can work for the people who live here – which includes a fairer welfare system and greater protection for our pensions.”

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Aug 152014
Food bank 3

The number of food banks has increased 400% in two years.

With thanks to Paul Robertson.

Better Together Aberdeenshire were chastised on Tuesday after claiming on their social media site that the presence of food banks in Scotland was “normal” and “far from being a sign of failure.” The incredible claim comes just the day after the Scottish Government announced £500,000 of funding to assist Scottish food banks in meeting rising demand.

The post was uploaded on the  ‘Better Together Aberdeenshire’ Facebook page on the evening of 11 August and was removed mid-morning of 12 August, but not before it had “gone viral on social media sites sparking an overwhelming reaction of incredulity.

Ross Cassie, a Macduff-based organiser of the Yes campaign in Aberdeenshire, commented:

“Those who volunteer their time and money to run food banks deserve our unreserved thanks. However it is intolerable that food banks even exist in a country which is as wealthy as ours.”

“The most alarming statistic is that 1 in 5 who present at local food banks are actually ‘working poor’ – that is, people who have a job but whose income simply doesn’t meet all the bills.”

“In September, we have the opportunity to reject the status quo of pervasive inequality that sends working families to food banks. We have the opportunity to take Scotland’s wealth in Scotland’s hands and make it work for all of Scotland’s people.”

The Trussell Trust, which operates 40 food banks in Scotland, recently released figures estimating a 400% increase in food banks in just two years, with 70,000 people in Scotland reliant on Trussell Trust food banks alone.

Mr Cassie added:

“There is another way Scotland can become a normal European country – and that is by voting ‘Yes’ in September.”

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Aug 072014

Yes campaigners in the North-east of Scotland have welcomed a new poll indicating that a majority of North-east voters will cast their ballots in favour of independence on September 18.


Ross Cassie

The Survation Poll for the Mail on Sunday, published on August 3 indicates that voters are increasingly moving towards Yes in the North-east with 48.6% of respondents backing independence, 39.8% for no, and 11.6% undecided.[1] The poll follows steady increases for the Yes vote country-wide, with the overall figures for Scotland indicating 40.2% Yes and 45.9% for no – putting the Yes campaign within four points of victory. Yes Banffshire and Buchan Coast organiser Ross Cassie said:

“This latest poll illustrates that momentum is very much with the Yes campaign in the North-east of Scotland. The good people of the North-east are being persuaded by a positive, ambitious and aspirational vision for our future in an independent Scotland; and are fed up of the negative scaremongering of the no campaign which offers no change at all.”

“We will not be resting on our laurels and will continue to take our positive message to the streets and doors of the North-east in the weeks ahead. A Yes vote and a better future is within our reach and that is something that will enthuse and inspire many across the country.”

[1] Survation poll for the Scottish Mail on Sunday, August 3, 2014: Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

Aug 072014

Old Susannah gets to grips with Granite City Gripes such as shooting, snooping and serious tax avoidance, allegedly.  By Suzanne Kelly

DictionaryIt’s been a colourful week in the Granite City; referendum and Commonwealth Game Fevers have swept through town. Who can forget those beautiful Commonwealth Scottish uniforms with their pastel tartans paired with floral shirts, the Scottie dogs, and the dancing teacakes? It’s so good to see we’ve broken out from any stereotyping.

I do wonder how the other companies which paid to have their products promoted in the games feel, knowing that Tunnock’s were approached by the organisers who wanted to use their product in a dance number? The sale of Tunnock’s cakes is apparently up by over 60%.

I wonder if the same is true for well-known Scottish sponsors Kellogg’s, Gatorade and Heineken? I think a dance number with a sixpack of beer would have added to the festivities.

The artful dolphins dotted around town are great; it’s wonderful to watch kids climb them and break off little chunks of them for souvenirs. It’s great to know people are interacting with them by vandalising and torching them, as well. For those who want to have a good look at these great sculptures, I’d get in fast.

For those of you who don’t actually want to ride a dolphin sculpture or take a chunk of one home, then be sure to see the adorable mini dolphins in the libraries; there is a trail for kids to follow, and if they visit all the dolphins, they get a goody bag. This initiative may have been modelled on similar events in other cities, but it is a good one.

The Eid celebration took place in Union Terrace Gardens; could it be the city’s organisers are mellowing a little? Despite there being tents and crowds, there weren’t scores of police, private security, crowd barriers, anti-climb paint or any of the usual high security measures the city usually pays for when someone wants to have fun. Let’s hope they tool up for the next event.

With the good things that are going on, any little issues seem to pale into insignificance.  However, here are a few such little issues and some definitions.

Routine Patrol: (Modern English compound noun) – a beat or patch secured by police (formerly without guns).

Mark Williams, chief of Edinburgh’s police has put armed men on routine patrol. What could possibly go wrong? This is also what Police Scotland has done – increasingly armed its routine patrols. If the police are all now toting guns when responding to incidents, such as the recent argument in an Inverness fast food restaurant, it can only be a good thing.

The chief of police says there really aren’t that many more armed officers. He’s kindly taken it on himself to dole out the guns without bothering the nice folk in Holyrood, local government, or the citizens (heaven forbid). To give the guns out now, and deal with Holyrood later seems like a great strategy to me.

All these armed cops will probably save the taxpayer a fortune in trial costs in the long run. Perhaps it might seem to the unduly wary that when the police are dictating terms to the politicians, carrying guns where they didn’t before, searching thousands of children in on-the-spot, warrantless detentions, we are well and truly in a police state.

I’m sure you feel all the safer for it. The local Edinburgh councillors are against it, but what does that matter? They’re not the ones with the guns, so their opinion will remain just that, opinion.

Old Susannah does have one little question though: since the police and a host of authorities are spying on our computers, our phone calls and our video, wouldn’t it be better to prevent crime than to shoot people? Thankfully, the authorities say there won’t be any escalation in the criminal element getting armed as well. No, that would never happen.

Police Scotland is sending armed police to that hotbed of crime, debauchery and sin – the Belladrum festival. I’m sure all this information is comforting, but if you wish to join MP Danny Alexander, and petition the cops to lay down their arms, here is a link

Actually, I have one other thought. This week (and not for the first time) American police shot the wrong man; this was in Los Angeles. It’s good to know that can’t happen here. This may be the same police force that laid siege to George Copeland’s empty flat, took him into custody days later, and tried to get him to say a pink feather duster could have been mistaken by them for a gun.

No, there will be no problems with this scheme at all.

Sure a few innocent people will be shot; Harry Stanley in London was shot when he carried an antique table leg securely wrapped in a blanket; a member of the public thought it could have been a rifle. Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes was a Brazlian on his way to work on a tube train when he was shot several times.

Happily the police rallied round after the shooting – to tweak their stories and the records, and to spy on the bereaved family. I know I feel safer for it.

Spying on civilians? Surely that’s not going on. Well, maybe just a little, but only if there are really good reasons.

Springboard: (Modern English proper noun) company which monitors footfall and visitor movements in private and public spaces.

Inspired had an inspired idea – they’d spend £100,000 on the company Springboard to see where you and I are going in the Business Improvement District, how long we’re spending walking around, and how long we linger in shops. They say the data is all anonymous. They are also apparently holding it ‘permanently’ as per their website

Do have a look at the technology being used – by tracing signals from your mobile / using sensors, they’ll know how long you stay in the tattoo parlour, how long you’re in the STD clinic, how long you linger in the pub, etc. etc. This is to understand your shopping patterns – anonymously of course. But with your phone number, and imagery.

Naturally you want some person knowing where you are and what you’re doing, and also being able to match that up with your credit card use in a shop if they really put their minds to it. It’s reassuring to know that such data is anonymous and will never be used other than for the purpose of monitoring your movements.

Alas, there are one or two issues. You don’t get the chance to opt out, even though various data protection agencies have grave concerns about this technology being anonymous.

Who will look at data, and will they be as saintly as the police? The police, sadly, have been in the news in the past, for the odd occasion when police officers have spied on their partners, ex-partners and so on, using surveillance info illegally. Don’t worry; it couldn’t happen in the private sector.

151011-1217001There was a time when I fell afoul of this technology in Aberdeen, and it wasn’t my shopping that the security guards were monitoring.

Back when we had a vote on the beautiful designs proposed for Union Terrace Gardens, I went to the Academy shopping centre the day before the opening.

A colleague had told me he was harassed for trying to take photos of the exhibition space – even though he was on the very public Belmont Street.

I went to see what was up. On Belmont Street I looked in the window, took photos and took photos of the exhibition poster which was placed on Belmont Street. Well, I also went inside the Academy, and all of a sudden noticed security guards were looking at me, and coming towards me. As I’d done nothing wrong, but wanted to avoid the hassle my colleague had, I abruptly left.

I walked around for a bit, then went into the Bon Accord & St Nicholas Mall. I hadn’t been inside for more than a minute when the guard from the Academy accosted me.

The story of that little encounter is here.  I contacted the Academy to protest my treatment by this guard, and to ask whether they tracked me (signs inside the mall advise that you are being tracked by your mobile; these are easy to spot if you are 8 foot tall). I never did get an answer.

I will let you know what Inspired have to say about this tracking system – and about their current financial issues (pay rises seem to have possibly been made to friends and family; this is being contested). Inspired are funded by the local businesses who incur extra costs for the bunting and spying. I wonder how a business would make up for increased costs?

Surely not by increasing prices to customers, though. Apart from the private funding, you and I gave them at least £50,000. More on that later. A spokesperson has helpfully been in touch to say they have nothing to say. We shall see.

Trust: (Eng. legal compound noun ) mechanism for ensuring a person or group’s money is used towards a specific purpose, governed by trustees.

In 2012 I was worried upon discovering The Wood Family Trust had only £29,163,000 in its treasury; it had spent £2,355,000 on an assortment of charitable acts, pensions for its personnel, and of course salary and overheads. At the time I suggested we should all pitch in.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to see that they’ve found a slightly more secure financial base – perhaps some of you did drop the odd tenner into their kitty. The trust might not be out of the woods yet, but they have a healthier £53,199,000 balance with some £5,388,000 going on charitable activities, salaries, pensions, expenses, etc.

They are still funding their competition; school children compete in groups with local charities (obviously animal charities are excluded) to work on presentations. After votes are cast, the winning charity gets the £53,000,000.  Sorry – the winning charity gets around £3,000 – give or take.

Those that didn’t win the popularity contest can console themselves that they expended time and money towards trying. This teaches children a valuable lesson – winning is all-important in this winner-take-all world. No doubt you’re as much in favour of them learning this lesson as I am.

The idea may still be to get into ‘venture philanthropy’ and kindly lend some of the millions to tea-plantation owners in Rwanda, apparently in partnership of some sort with Lord Sainsbury, who might be able to find some use for the extra tea grown by those they’ve lent money to.

The fact that tens of millions have been sitting around for a year or two should in no way suggest that any form of tax evasion is going on. It’s not as if it’s a scheme whereby people are paid via an offshore tax haven so that some company or other avoids paying UK National Insurance. I’m sure I heard of some company doing this immoral scheme. If I wood have remembered the company, I’d let you know.

‘Why not just give money away to good causes?’ I can practically hear you ask. How very naive.

In venture philanthropy, you lend money out to a good cause, and get a gold star for being charitable. The people you lend the money to are in your debt, until they, er, pay their debt. This of course bears no resemblance to the medieval feudal system. The rich would allow peasants to grow food on a patch of land, and the peasant would give a share to the rich lord.

It would never happen here. Or in Rwanda. Why give money away for free if you can avoid taxes and get some of it back in due course?

Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland: (Scottish government report) – paper claiming that there are financial imbalances within Scotland. As far-fetched as it seems, it’s just possible that some children and pensioners are living below the poverty line, while at the same time, a small minority are living with extreme wealth. No, I’ve not seen any evidence for this, either.

However, the government has this to say:-

“Poverty in Scotland has increased in 2012/13. While the rate of poverty increased for all groups, the largest increase was in the rate of child poverty.

“Relative poverty, before housing costs (BHC) in Scotland has increased to 16 per cent for the whole population, a 2 percentage point increase on the previous year. In 2012/13 there were 820,000 people living in poverty, 110,000 more than the previous year.

“Relative child poverty (BHC), increased to 19 per cent in 2012/13, up from 15 per cent the previous year. In 2012/13, there were 180,000 children living in relative poverty in Scotland, 30,000 more than in 2011/12. This reverses the trend of declining child poverty over recent years.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among working age adults in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 13 per cent the previous year. This brings the number of working age adults in relative poverty to 480,000, an increase of 70,000 compared with 2011/12.

“Relative poverty (BHC) among pensioners in 2012/13 was 15 per cent, an increase from 14 per cent the previous year. There were 150,000 pensioners in relative poverty in 2012/13, 10,000 more than the previous year.”

I must admit I have seen relative poverty; my uncle Ned is always borrowing fivers.

If only there were some way to crack down on tax avoidance, and get money to those who need it for food and shelter. Oh well, if you think of anything, do let me know.

Next Week: How the city organises its important documents (or doesn’t), and that Nice Mr Trump turns his attention back to Menie

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Jul 312014
Eilidh Whiteford MP Peterhead Harbour (1)

Banff and Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

One of the most frequent concerns voters raise with me on the doorstep relates to the future of the NHS in Scotland.

The fact that England’s NHS is being slowly but surely privatised and broken up is public knowledge, and it’s something citizens are justifiably concerned about.

The situation is, of course, different north of the border. The Scottish Government has resisted the stealth privatisation of our NHS.

Most of us depend on the NHS to meet our health care needs, and while it’s not always perfect, the evidence shows that the NHS in Scotland is doing a better job of meeting treatment time targets and cutting infections than other parts of the UK.

In Scotland, the end of prescription charging has especially helped those with chronic illnesses, and access to free eye and dental checks often prevents more serious and costly problems developing.  And of course, free personal care is enabling many frail or elderly people to live independently, thereby maintaining their quality of life and preventing more costly interventions.

Overall, the health resource budget has increased by 22% over seven years of SNP Government. That represents a major investment, with real results.

Nonetheless, there is still reason to be concerned about the impact that Westminster’s privatisation agenda will have in Scotland. The reason is the funding mechanism for the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament’s block grant is decided at Westminster, and is allocated on the basis of UK expenditure. When this goes up, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes up. When it goes down, the Scottish Parliament’s grant goes down.

Our ability to spend is tied tightly to the UK Government’s own spending plans, and every cut the UK Government makes to spending on the English NHS has a consequential impact on our budget, Placing our NHS spending at the mercy of the UK Government’s priorities.

The Westminster Government’s Health and Social Care Act is estimated to result in £1.07 billion ‘savings’  between 2014-2020 – if this is taken from England’s NHS budget, this could result in a cut to Scotland’s budget of around £105 million each year.

Of course, tied in with this is the fact that politicians from all the main Westminster parties have already pledged to cut the Barnett Formula in the event of a No vote. This won’t happen before the referendum, but MPs from all parties have already said publicly that Barnett needs to be ‘reformed’.

Yet Scotland is consistently short-changed through Westminster spending priorities. In every one of the past 33 years, tax receipts in Scotland have been higher than in the rest of the UK; in the last 5 years alone we have contributed £8.3 billion more to the UK coffers than we’ve had back in public spending

The only way to protect Scotland’s NHS definitively is for the Scottish Government to take responsibility for its own budget. Scotland more than pays its way in the UK, and the current system of sending almost our entire revenue to London in return for pocket money is unsustainable.

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