The Daily Telegraph

SNP’S ‘staggering’ blocking of Bill risks Scots’ health

- By Simon Johnson Scottish political editor

THE SNP was last night accused of endangerin­g Scots after blocking a postbrexit Bill to allow holidaymak­ers to access healthcare abroad.

The Health and Care Bill gives Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, powers to strike agreements with countries outside Europe allowing their respective citizens to access each other’s healthcare systems.

The Bill would allow Mr Javid to make “discretion­ary payments” to foreign countries for healthcare not covered under the deal where he considers there are “exceptiona­l circumstan­ces”.

Mr Javid sought legislativ­e consent from the Scottish Government as the Bill impinges on devolved health matters, but ministers have refused to provide it as they do not have a veto over the measures that are brought forward.

In a memorandum lodged at Holyrood, the Scottish Government said Green and SNP “ministers should not only be consulted, but should be required to consent before regulation­s are made in such circumstan­ces”.

The memo also claimed the Bill would give the UK Government “unacceptab­le” powers to make regulation­s that impose duties on Scottish ministers and NHS boards.

If Scottish ministers refuse to back down in the row, Whitehall insiders said that the UK Government may be forced to remove Scotland from the scope of the Bill. This would mean English travellers would be entitled to healthcare in foreign countries outside Europe where there is a reciprocal agreement, but Scots would not.

A UK Government source said: “It is staggering that the SNP Scottish Government are more interested in trying to generate a constituti­onal row than ensuring the safety of Scots abroad.”

Alternativ­ely, they said Mr Javid could press ahead with the Bill covering Scotland despite Holyrood not having passed a Legislativ­e Consent Motion.

The memorandum tabled at Holyrood states that the UK Government has declined Scottish ministers’ request for a veto over any regulation­s brought forward under the Bill.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We worked closely with the UK Government to ensure the continuati­on of reciprocal healthcare arrangemen­ts with the EU following Brexit. We are determined to ensure Scots continue to benefit from such care abroad and have recommende­d that the Scottish Parliament withhold consent on this legislatio­n while we work to resolve outstandin­g concerns with some simple fixes that would not materially affect the proposals in the Bill, but would respect devolution.”

‘It is staggering that the SNP are more interested in trying to generate a constituti­onal row’

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