£180m for Scots NHS un­der PM’S Brexit boost

A gen­eral election should not be con­sid­ered un­til af­ter 31 Oc­to­ber, writes Brian Mon­teith

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SCOTT MACNAB

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

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