Forgot to Mention…

Following on…what is also forgotten in the unprecedented continuing support for a party in government since 2007 – a remarkable and stunning achievement eclipsing Blair. There is no sign there of a public tiring of the SNP or demanding more and radical policies. That may be a good thing in itself and to be welcomed, by among others, myself but in Sturgeon’s shoes, how much would you risk when there is no demand?

This is the madness of the frenzied punter…I’ve made a million already so I’ll just put it all on this outsider and I could get massively rich. Come on, Dead Man’s Gulch!

It is true that there is always an accounting and that will come sometime after next May when budget cuts bite, numbers have to be toted up and that fracking business will need a definite answer (from this distance I think the majority will see it as business opportunity like oil, the economics outweighing the environment but still a loser for the SNP as far as many new members are concerned).

But right now, no other party gets a hearing from the Scots, however frustrating that may be and, however clever our journalists, they are wasting their time (but still getting paid and it’s a bitch coming up with an idea every week).

We also hear repeated cries that there is a crisis in public services. Really? NHS crisis…education crisis? Myopia must have taken hold because I use the health service and I have kids at school and whatever issues arise don’t amount in my book to a crisis. We DO have a problem at our school because education officials allowed too many requests from outwith the catchment area and now there are too many pupils requiring rebuilding work at a new school. That’s officials at Glasgow City Council, not civil servants or ministers at Holyrood.

Now it’s true and it’s shaming to admit that far too many youngsters from poor homes have lower attainment – the result of poverty and social neglect which has its roots in the Industrial Revolution and hardly improved during generations of Unionist government. It is glib to assert that this is down to a Scottish Government in power for eight years. In the Joseph Rowntree report which confirmed this trend, among the 15 key recommendations, two are laid at the door of the national government – making attainment data available to all teachers and establishing a national knowledge bank and mobilisation strategy. The rest are aimed at councils, teachers, universities, parents and society generally. Yet you just know Jackie Baillie would blame the government anyway if her car wouldn’t start.

One of the first acts of the SNP government was to identify early intervention as a key to equality and social improvement and money has been invested in delivering a fundamental focus inequality – violence, poor physical and mental health, low achievement and attainment at school. That’s long-term generational investment which governments never last long enough to harvest gthemselves.

At the other end of the school process we find it reported that: Scotland is the best educated country in Europe, according to a report released by the Office for National Statistics. It says that nearly 45 per cent of people in Scotland aged between 25 and 64 have some kind of tertiary education – including university degrees and further education — ahead of Ireland, Luxembourg and Finland, which were the only other countries to get more than 40 per cent.

In terms of the proportion of the population going into higher and tertiary education, Scotland actually has just about the highest in the world, said ONS chief economic adviser Joe Grice. Scotland also does very well in terms of people in the working-age population (16-64) that have got a qualification at NVQ4 or above. So we can’t be that bad…

Is there an NHS crisis? Is there ever NOT an NHS crisis? It was born by stuffing cash into doctors’ pockets and as a cumbersome, unwieldy behemoth it devours money like my kids consume Orios. There were crises all through the Labour years and, if you value your blood pressure, avert your eyes from the mess in much of England’s NHS.

Everything in the media is a crisis otherwise it ain’t a story. Clearly folk left in corridors is crap but is that a shock at a brand new hospital merging together several separate centres? A consultant said to me of the Southern Death Star (I think that’s what the Queen called it): We expected this. There are so many different services going in and so much bureaucracy, it was bound to have problems.

Are the public disillusioned or do they see a massive brand new hospital, one of the best in the world, provided by their tax money undergoing teething problems that afflict every major move – including the BBC, if I remember.

And a word of advice if you find yourself in A and E. The staff have to make rapid judgements, sometimes life-saving ones and what you think is a tragedy, may be not be a mortal wound to them. In triage, when asked on a scale of one to ten How bad is that axe embedded in the back of your head, Mr Batemen? Always answer Ten, nurse. Honest. It really hurts.

And how many executive decision-makers to you reckon there are in a big hospital, all paid professional salaries to make the place work? On top of that there is a 30 strong health board for the Death Star. Does the public assume that a mistake in allocating space is a decision made by the health minister – the way the journalists report it – rather than a departmental error for which dozens of staff on the ground are responsible?

I honestly think the public see through this charade of blame culture and don’t believe a word Jackie Baillie says.

There is a looming shortage of doctors in general practice on top of the existing difficulty of attracting GPs to rural areas. Is that the result of government policy or is it a cultural shift in attitudes towards the professions? There are already inducements from the government but in some cases, they still don’t have an effect. Luring people into remoter areas probably needs a whole panoply of attractions from environment to good shops, guaranteed broadband, impressive schools and a local economy that might sustain a spouse’s job – the very things the SNP wants independence to deliver.

Sure, I can whitewash them till the cows come home but my argument is that the people of Scotland appear to accept the limitations imposed upon their government and would be much less forgiving if all the levers to change society were already in their hands. They’re not and we must make do. There is a sensible and hardheaded outlook at large which acknowledges they’re fighting to make it better and nobody else could do a better job. And no amount of whiney pieces in the papers will convince them otherwise.

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30 thoughts on “Forgot to Mention…

  1. ronald alexander mcdonald

    You’re correct Derek. Most people aren’t stupid and realise the financial restraints. I firmly believe the more the corrupt MSM attacks, the stronger the SNP becomes.

    However, with regard to the need for radical thinking. I believe it will be essential when it comes to an economic plan for an another Independence referendum.

  2. As far as I am aware Derek, that fantastic new hospital was built on time without PFI robbing future generations of the assets.

  3. Duncan Mitchell

    It’s great to have you back Derek,
    I don’t want to call it the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for various reasons including the fact that we don’t have a “Queen Elizabeth University”. However, I would prefer something less suggestive than the Southern Death Star. I am sure all the brains that are represented here will come up with something suitable. After all I don’t know the proper name of the “Squinty Bridge”!!
    Jackie Baillie and Eleanor Bradford have little effect on anyone keeping informed and you have summed it up perfectly.

  4. Jackie Baillie and Jackie Bird interchangeable in this piece.

  5. Well said, Derek. I’ve been enjoying re-reading after a very long time ‘A Scots Quair’, and am struck by how little has changed in the past 90 years. Some minor improvements here, a vast range of new technology there, but lives and attitudes, the anger against toffs and Tories, the disillusion with Labour and Liberals (that comes out in Grey Granite) remain much the same. Well worth adding to your summer re-reading book pile.

  6. During the post referendum “enhanced” devolution settlement discussions,the British Unionist parties in Scotland demanded that macro economic policy and all other major decisions affecting Scottish affairs be retained by London.
    Strange how they now seem to think that having achieved that objective,we Scots should be in a position to take decisions which differ in any significant way from those made in England.
    With luck,these people and the parties they represent will be eradicated over the next few years and it will become clear to London,whether they like it or not,that we Scots are going to decide what happens in Scotland and not governments in another country elected by the people of that country (democracy,just not ours).
    Thanks Derek and welcome back to sodden Scotland!

  7. Forgot to mention that I read one of the books you mentioned in a previous post about D day through German eyes,
    Interesting that German soldiers viewed the British elite then as backward looking opportunists.
    Nothing has changed.

  8. Agree Derek and you are spot on re spouses jobs

  9. I did see one “crisis” reported that said cancer patients were moved out due to fears over air quality(7th July). I thought was a load of you-know-what because I remembered working in a new building way back in the early seventies. For the first three months or so, the fire alarms went off regularly and we all had to troop out to assembly point in the old cemetery attached to the church nearby. They were all false alarms caused by dust from the building work being read as smoke by the Fire Alarm System.

    It got to be quite funny. When the fire alarms went off, we told the customers we were dealing with on the phone that we had to take their number and we would call them back. Some got quite upset and demanded that we leave the building at once. Once they were told it was a regular occurrence (and why) most calmed down.

    I expect the air quality standard for a hospital unit is much tighter than the level set for Fire Alarms and the doctors will be taking no chances. No doubt the builders will work hard to fix it ASAP.

    I bet the media will not report it when it is.

    • Same happened with building work in the MedScience block at Ninewells, two floors up from us in the bowels. Fortunately they use a sector alarm system in the hospital to avoid having to evacuate everywhere every time an alarm goes of somewhere on a huge site. They solved the problem of dust getting in the detectors with latex (actually nitrile, low allergenic) cloves attached over the detectors. Keeps the smoke out too but will only delay the heat detector part of it. Such gloves are of course ubiquitous (small, medium or large? I’m a medium) in both wards and science labs. Not quite as disposable as pipette tips but probably second most disposed of item.

  10. I believe the coming crisis, caused by the huge cut in the block grant ,can be used as a reason for another referendum.

    “Should Scotland be an independent country, or should we accept the Tory cuts from Westminster?”

  11. The new hospital should be called “The QuEU”.

    • Getting there, in East Kent many years ago we were saddled with ‘the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital’ quite a mouthful! Imagine answering the phone there all day. it very rapidly was called the QEQM by locals. No idea what it has settled into now.

  12. Two brief comments:

    First, as far as higher education is concerned, I think you still have to answer the detailed evidence provided in the 2014 report for the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity at Edinburgh University which concludes that “for young students in full-time higher education in Scotland, the net effect of policy decisions over the decade to 2015-16 will be a resource transfer from low-income to high-income households. More generally, the prioritisation of fees over living costs for cash support has been to the relative detriment of lower-income students…in absolute terms, over time and relative to other parts of the UK the Scottish system for financing full-time students in higher education does not have the egalitarian, progressive effects commonly claimed for it”.

    And as for the NHS, although the budget for devolved public services has been cut by 4 percentage points less in Scotland than in England over the past five years (a consequence of the Barnett formula), spending on health in England increased by 6% in real terms over the same period compared with 1% in Scotland.

    As my old granny used to say, facts are chiels that winna ding.

    • Aye “facts are chiels that winna ding.” but then again there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”

      Spending on ‘Health’ may be ‘up 6% in real terms’ in England, but they do not have a ‘better service’ than in Scotland, so perhaps, the ‘Modest 1% in real terms’ in Scotland just illustrates that we do it better, on time and on budget. without lining the pockets, of Cameron, Osborne and their friends.

      Throwing ‘money’ at a problem doesn’t solve it, it only creates more and bigger problems, as can been seen in the English NHS.

    • Neither of those are facts. Just labour lies. Try harder you desperate unionist lickspittle.

      • There’s no need for language such as ‘unionist lickspittle’. It’s profoundly unhelpful and doesn’t win over people to the cause – in fact it makes us look like the narriw, bigoted nats the media often accuse supporters of independence as being. And whilst it’s true as Derek says that the use of the word ‘crisis’ is often overplayed for political gain, I see no reason why the Scottish government should be immune from criticism, especially from its supporters.

        • lastchancetoshine

          Of course it shouldn’t (and that’s part of the great thing about anengaged electorate) however that criticism really should be a well informed and clearly explained. The comment above illustrates rather well exactly what Derek is talking about. The first response to it being exactly the type it is designed to extract.

  13. ,Excellent stuff as ever Derek. However in order to respond the mantra (which will increase in ferocity after the summer recess) “you now have the power you should be using it” the SNP government will need to mount a very intelligent ‘offensive’
    First they need attack the lie about how much power we will have and contrast it to promised ‘Home Rule’ Secondly they need to outline the options enabled by the feeble powers.
    Thirdly they need to challenge Labour to tell us how they would use the ‘powers’. As opposed to just letting Lab ask ‘how are you going to do a ‘bedroom tax response’ on the austerity cuts which they won’t oppose in WM!
    Lastly I believe they must ‘deliver’ differences where they can and online what they would otherwise ‘deliver’ if they had the power

  14. Sorry, ‘outline’ what they would otherwise ‘deliver’ if they had the power

  15. Steve Asaneilean

    Re NHS Derek – you already know my views on that. But just for interest have a look at the August edition of iScot magazine.

    You’re correct to say that the NHS has been in “crisis” since its inception in 1948 largely because it has never been adequately funded.

    Your comments about doctors’ pockets being stuffed is a bit of a cheap shot and not accurate despite commonly held public perceptions. However at least you’re not telling the crass out-and-out lies Kevin McKenna published about hospital consultants in the Observer the weekend before last.

    Having worked in the NHS for over 30 years I am well-used to the crisis talk perpetually surrounding it. However this time I sense something much more serious. A malaise, yes, but also a growing unease and a sense that the NHS as we know and value it is at very real risk.

    It’s too easy to blame whoever is in power but it’s more fundamental than that. As a society we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the cheap disposable material benefits of a low skill, low wage, low tax economy.

    But you can’t have lower taxes and free health care or education. It all has to be paid for.

    And since (Not) Labour started privatisation of the NHS in England the genie has been let out of the bottle.

    What we’re seeing now with the right wing press and Jeremy Hunt around weekend working is deliberate attempt to undermine doctors and make them out to be the bad guys. All done on a gross misrepresentation of the evidence and without any evidence that what Hunt wants will actually solve anything.

    So why? Because the Tories signed up to the neo-liberal capitalism ideals decades ago. These say that the State should be involved as little as possible in individual people’s lives. In addition the State should not provide services like health and education.

    And it’s no surprise that all this is happening with TTIP set to be finalised by the end of the year – without a guaranteed blanket exclusion for the NHS.

    What they are trying to do is soften the public up to the idea that it is necessary to change how health care is provided and who provides it. By painting doctors as the villains (which your comments and those of Kevin feed into) they render any warnings or intervention from the profession impotent.

    So be careful what you wish for. As a society we need to decide what kind of NHS we want and how much we are willing to spend for that. Then we need to fight for it and cough up the cash in the form of higher taxes.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it – now there’s a good health tip.

    • TBF the “stuff mouths” is a quote from Nye Bevin …

    • “As a society we need to decide what kind of NHS we want and how much we are willing to spend for that.” Indeed. The difficulty is that public demand for healthcare is unlimited. So I part company with your remark that “we need to fight for it and cough up the cash in the form of higher taxes”.

      Unlimited demand can never be met, by definition.

      • Steve Asaneilean

        Disagree I’m afraid. There are a finite number of people who can only develop a finite number of problems before they eventually die.

        Problems only arise when demand exceeds capacity as it currently does and has done for much of the NHS’ history.

        There have been many attempts to reduce demand over the years but they have amounted to little in terms of impact.

        Therefore the only option is to increase capacity.

        Every part of NHS Scotland is currently struggling under unprecedented demand but I don’t know of a single unit, department or health centre who doesn’t think they could manage if only they had more capacity.

        So we, as a society, have a stark choice to make. What level of health service are we prepared to be able to afford? In other words what services are we prepared to let go of in the absence of a willingness to substantially increase our spending on the NHS?

        It’s time to stop blaming. It’s time to stop sticking heads in the sand. It’s time for everyone – politicians of all colours, professional groups and service users (i.e. all of us) to get round the table and thrash out once and for all what our NHS will look like for the next half century of its existence.

        If not then I am afraid it will grind to a halt sooner rather than later.

  16. There are many decisions the SNP will make after Independence which they cannot under the constraints of Westminster
    We all know the Smith commission powers are a complete nonsense designed to achieve nothing but political noise from Unionist parties in the hope of destabilising the SNP and shaking Scottish faith in their competence
    In terms of Management the SNP have proven themselves efficient prudent and effective and that’s a lot of boxes ticked for a party who’s opposition is Everybody for no other reason than They Just Are

    Always difficult times ahead for any country to choose the right way forward let alone ours but with Independence at least that choice will be ours

  17. In terms of other parties Derek, did you forget the very large rises in the membership of the Greens and the SSP? Also the polls show the Greens are on for a big increase in seats off the lists. People are being realistic and canny, negligible support at the constituency level, 10% in the lists. The SNP are not the only fruit. Other Yes parties are available.

  18. jacquescoleman

    “And how many executive decision-makers to you reckon there are in a big hospital, all paid professional salaries to make the place work?”

    Not sure if the question mark is denoting sarcasm there.

    “I honestly think the public see through this charade of blame culture and don’t believe a word Jackie Baillie says.”

    Does ANYONE believe a word Jackie Baillie says, even Jackie Baillie?

    • That is a most profound question:

      Does ANYONE believe a word Jackie Baillie says, even Jackie Baillie?

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