£180m for Scots NHS under PM’S Brexit boost
A general election should not be considered until after 31 October, writes Brian Monteith
SNP ministers are facing calls from opponents to give Scotland’s “struggling” health service the £180 million “union boost” announced as part of a major NHS funding drive by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson pledged an extra £1.8 billion to the NHS in England this year, with the devolution settlement meaning Scotland receives a “share” to be spent as Holyrood ministers see fit.
Opponents said it was vital the money be spent on frontline NHS services in Scotland.
Scotland is to receive a £180 million “union boost” as part of a major NHS funding drive unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
SNP ministers are now facing calls from opponents to commit the additional cash to the “struggling” health service in Scotland.
Mr Johnson said yesterday he is “determined to deliver” the promises of the Brexit referendum campaign as he pledged an extra £1.8 billion to the NHS this year. He has received continued criticism for the battle bus claim that leaving the EU would allow the UK to take back control of £350 million a week, with some boosting the NHS.
Although NHS cash applies to England, the devolution settlement means Scotland receives a “share” amounting to around £180 million to be spent as Holyrood ministers see fit.
Scottish Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “This is another welcome £180 million union boost and the SNP must commit to spending it on Scotland’s struggling NHS.
“Once again this shows that the SNP cries of austerity are nonsense – the Scottish budget is increasing.
“This latest cash boost for Scots will only go some way to undoingthedamagecausedby this independence-obsessed SNP government.
“The SNP has racked up a staggering £1 billion black hole in Scottish finances while they focus on their endless separatist schemes. Yet again it is completely clear that responsibility for the ever-increasing hospital waiting times, lack of teachers and dreadful roads all lie at the door of the SNP.”
The Scottish Government has previously committed to passingonbarnettconsequentials arising from NHS funding in England to the health and social care budget in Scotland.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “While any additional funding is welcome, recent UK government decisions have short-changed our health service, with Scotland losing out on more than £100 million that it should have received. However, the Scottish Government is absolutely committed to ensuring the NHS remains a public service and has acted to protect it with record high investment.”
The money unveiled by Mr Johnson is on top of Theresa May’s £33.9 billion annual increase on the health service by 2023/24.
Visiting a Lincolnshire hospital yesterday, the Prime Minister announced 20 hospitals are set to share £850 million of funding to upgrade outdated facilities and equipment to improve patient care and save lives.
There will also be a £1 billion hike in NHS capital spending, to fund both existing upgrade programmes and tackle urgent infrastructure projects.
“The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country,” Mr Johnson said.
“With our doctors and nurses working tirelessly day-in, day-out, this treasured institution truly showcases the very best of Britain.
“That’s why I made it my immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all, of patients.
“It’s time to face up to this challenge and make sure the NHS receives the funds it needs.”
Labour said the extra funding “falls significantly short” of the amount needed to reverse Tory cuts.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This announcement – even if it’s ever delivered – falls significantly short of what’s needed to provide quality, safe care to patients after years of Tory cuts.”
The Nuffield Trust health think-tank said the committed sum will “only be a fraction” of what is needed to upgrade 20 hospitals, as Mr Johnson pledged on his first day as prime minister.
Keep calm and carry on. That is my message to those waiting to see if the UK does finally leave the European Union on Hallow’s Eve, this year of our Lord, 2019.
Talk of a second referendum is now sinking into a cold watery grave as deep as the Mariana Trench after the leader of the undemocratic liberals announced she would not respect the outcome if we voted to leave again. So what’s the point of having a second vote then? The leader of the Greens agreed, revealing her own dogmatism more appropriate for a religious cult.
Talk of an early general election, while gaining easy currency now that the minority Conservative government’s nominal majority has been reduced to only one, also happens to be a distraction – as does all talk of pacts. There may or may not be a general election this side of Christmas. There may, as a result of the circumstances that cause such an unpredictable event, be any number of electoral pacts formed, but too much of this talk is of the purest hot air and has little substance too it.
First, what are the chances of a general election? While having the slimmest of majorities increases the likelihood of the Prime Minister losing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, it does not mean he would automatically lose the next one and thus be forced into a general election against his wishes.
Avoteofconfidencewillbea three-line whip; if any Tory members vote against their own government they will have the whip removed immediately, making it impossible for them to stand as a Conservative candidate in any election they help bring about. They would have to stand as an independent,
join another party and have other parties not contest their seat to have even a small chance of remaining an MP. For some that might not matter, and “some” might be enough to bring the government down, but for most it will be too far a leap.
Yes, the Rory Stewarts of this world, like the Anna Soubrys and Chukka Umunnas, have a guid conceit of themselves, but facing the untapped wrath of the electorate could deprive them of the daily dose of publicity that is their opium. Dare they go without it? Hubris is the cause of many a political death and humility is the only possible cure, but as it has to be self-administered it rarely is allowed to do its good work.
And why have a vote of confidence to stop Brexit when it does no such thing? Looking at the calendar, it seems to me the possibility of having a general election this side of 31 October has passed. Even if a no-confidence vote is passed in early September it then has to happen again two weeks after. The government can then delay the writ to move the general election long enough so that it happens in early November. During that interregnum, Parliament would be dissolved and unable to meet – Brexit on 31 October would come and go, with ministers still in place but no MPS around to harass them.
November is a far more likely prospect for a general election and would be at a point when Boris Johnson would have delivered Brexit and a Brexit Budget would have been presented. The PM’S chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, sees it the same way, apparently, and has already briefed civil servants to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on that basis.
A general election held on that
basis would be an entirely different prospect from one held before leaving. The Prime Minister would be able to claim he delivered on his promise to honour the referendum result – and those seeking to talk up the worst of all possible economic and social outcomes would be seen to be urging calamity on the British people rather than helping us rally round. That would not be a good look for Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson or even Ian Blackford.
Such a potential outcome could yet make the EU blink, offering Johnson a fudged deal to offer Westminster.
Furthermore, if last week’s Brecon and Radnorshire by-election demonstrated anything, it was that the public’s appetite for leaving the EU remains firm. The number of votes for the Conservatives, Brexit Party and Ukip was more than half the total cast. It has been said that the Brexit Party split the Leave vote and should not have stood – but this is self-interested spin coming from Tory cheerleaders or those intentionally ignoring unhelpful facts. There was never any possibility of a by-election pact. The writ was moved by Theresa May’s government after she had resigned as leader and was seeing out her time as a lame duck PM. Nor was there any need to select the recalled MP, Chris Davies, who had admitted his guilt in the courts for falsely claiming expenses.
These decisions could have been postponed, leaving the new party leader to find a fresh candidate and move the writ at a later date. May’s behaviour in proffering such a poisonous cocktail contributed more than anything to her party losing the seat. The idea that the Brexit Party should wave through Davies, who apart from his conviction had voted for May’s Withdrawal Agreement, was never a runner.
The hyped talk of a by-election pact with the Tories also highlights the conceited sense of entitlement among some in the Conservative leadership. No single party represents all Leave voters. Claiming the Brexit Party voters would have voted Conservative and kept the seat blue ignores the reality that many would have formerly voted Labour and would have no interest in backing the Tories’ man.
The intentional misrepresentation (or failure to understand) what drives the Brexit Party founders, its supporters and the voters they attract is why talks of pacts are so misplaced and certainly premature. The Brecon and Radnorshire result showed Johnson he must deliver Brexit on time or see his party face extinction. It also showed Corbyn that Labour will leak Remain votes to other parties and Leave votes to the Brexit Party. No Labour seat north of the metropolitan bubble he inhabits will be safe.
Leave supporters should keep calm and carry on – only after 31 October – when we know if Brexit has been delivered – should we consider when and how a general election should be fought.
Brian Monteith MEP is chief whip of the Brexit Party.
0 Boris Johnson said yesterday he is ‘determined to deliver’ the promises of the Brexit referendum campaign as he pledged an extra £1.8 billion to the NHS this year
2 Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson with new Brecon and Radnorshire MP Jane Dodds (far left). The by-election result showed Boris Johnson he must deliver Brexit on time or see his party face extinction, says Brian Monteith