Alex Salmond is claiming today that privatisation of the NHS in England could lead to cuts in health spending in Scotland. This is nothing but a scare story.
First of all, the NHS in Scotland is run by the Scottish Parliament. If Scots don’t want to have private contractors running services, then we don’t have to. All these powers have been devolved since 1999, and the Scottish NHS has taken a different road from England in many ways. That’s the great strength of devolution. It responds to what Scottish voters want, and it means different approaches can be followed in different parts of the UK.
And even if the NHS in England does use private contractors for some of its work, it’s still all paid for out of taxation. It’s not paid by some private insurance scheme or by patients having to hand over money for treatment. Care is free at the point of need. It’s all public spending, whoever delivers it.
That means that in the calculation of the Barnett formula, which supports the Scottish Parliament’s budget, all of English health spending still counts–whether it’s delivered by contractors or anyone else. So any move to this sort of privatisation in England would have no effect at all on Scotland’s health budget. The First Minister is deliberately misleading if he says that it is.
This is the system that means we in Scotland spend nearly £2000 per head every year on health, higher than every other part of the UK and about 9% more per had than in England (source HM Treasury Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis)
One of the things that people in Scotland and England share is a very deep commitment to a National Health Service, and to healthcare paid for at the point of need and out of taxation. Here is what the polling data tells us: