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The Scottish referendum was, predictably, a disaster for Westminster’s historic view of the NHS


Scotland’s decision on its future, everyone knows, was as much a referendum on the past performance of the Westminster governments to date. In human resources, a guiding principle is that a candidate is likely to behave in future as he or she has down in the past, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Andy Burnham MP was quoted himself many times as warning against the creeping privatisation of the National Health Service in England. While the ‘No’ campaign consistently explained the Westminster government had protected the NHS budget, it was widely known that the statistical authority has rebuked David Cameron for stating incorrectly that NHS spending has increased in recent years.

The ‘no’ campaign nonetheless did put up a valiant fight, with exceptional campaigners Clare Lally and Johanna Baxter, for example. These campaigners, against some formidable abuse, tried to explain why the leverage of being united with England was especially important for Scotland to withstand future economic pressures resiliently, and why it was in fact intensely patriotic to keep Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.

Whatever Andy Burnham promises as the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, it is a fact that the efficiency savings in the NHS and the private finance initiative loan repayments have put enormous pressure on the operations on the service. Managers, who all too often behave in a divorced way to frontline clinicians, do not appear easily accountable for poor staff shortages impacting on clinical patient safety.

The efficiency savings operate on the assumptions that nobody wants to pay any tax to fund the NHS properly, and that the economy is not growing. Labour, whilst rightly drawing attention to how the ‘cost of living crisis’ is damaging the wellbeing of people, cannot easily claim that people are so unwilling to fund the NHS properly. Nor can they easily dismiss that the GDP of the UK might now be improving.

The resulting democratic deficit which has happened in Scotland is therefore an extreme serious one. Whilst it is the perception that New Labour and the Conservatives, at least, have paid more attention to their friends in the City of London rather than their workforce, there has been a lack of trust between voters and the mainstream parties. Today, UNITE decided it would go on strike. Labour has not yet given a clear indication of what intends to do about the private finance initiative.

In a way, the decision for Scotland was in fact very simple. It was about making a firm decision on separating from England, rather than subjecting Scotland to another eighteen years festering with Devo Max prior to another vote. But of course, we all know it was far from simple. Whatever one’s views about Johanna Lamont or Alex Salmond, the answer of many voters is a response to David Cameron’s original question, “We can’t go on like this.” Gordon Brown’s uttered the famous words yesterday, “And proud that with the powers of the Parliament we can guarantee that the National Health Service will be in public hands, universal, free at the point of need, as long and as ever as the people of Scotland want it.”

But will the general public believe Westminster any more?

It is clear that the Westminster governments totally underestimated the passion and drive of the ‘Yes’ campaign. If Gandhi had been subject to rolling news, one wonders how the Indian independence would have turned out. But the gut feeling of many ‘Yes’ campaigners was a blatant abreaction to lies and misinformation by people who were supposed to be acting in their best interests.

Predictably, Big Business were all mobilised to depict the #iScotApocalypse #ProjectFear scenario. Unfortunately, it had Westminster’s fingerprints all over it. The Westminster delegates, including Danny Alexander, George Osborne and David Cameron, looked utterly unconvincing in raising a populist case. And the media as per usual totally screwed up the reality of the economic contribution to the rest of the UK, which is quite a formidable one albeit not as strong as London and the South East.

When Margaret Thatcher reached Downing Street in 1979, she said, “And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’ … and to all the British people—howsoever they voted—may I say this. Now that the Election is over, may we get together and strive to serve and strengthen the country of which we’re so proud to be a part.”

England currently is deeply divided, between rich and poor, between employed and unemployed, and, as a result of the ‘welfare reforms’, between able bodied and physically disabled. September 18th was a chance for Scotland to have a ‘clean break’.

The question is, however, will Scotland go Alex Salmond’s way?

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