NICOLA Sturgeon has been called on by the UK Government to use a near £2 billion knock-on windfall from Theresa May’s “Brexit dividend” cash boost for the NHS in England to improve health care services in Scotland.
However, the Prime Minister was derided for announcing the almost £400 million a week real terms rise, which would be larger than the controversial £350 million a week boasted by the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum campaign.
Mrs May was accused of talking “tosh” by senior Tory colleague Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Commons Health Committee, mocked by Labour for finding a “magic money forest” and contradicted by the IFS, the country’s leading economic think-tank, which insisted there would be “no Brexit dividend” once Britain left the EU in 2019 given its £39bn divorce bill.
The PM took to the airwaves, announcing her plan to boost NHS spending by £600m a week in cash terms and £384m in real terms by 2023/4.
This would mean an annual rise of 3.4 per cent; a total increase of £20bn over the next five years.
She said: "Some people may remember seeing a figure on the side of a bus a while back of £350m a week in cash.
"Well, I can tell you what I am announcing will mean that in 2023-24, there will be about £600m a week…more in cash going into the NHS," she told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show.
The PM also signalled the NHS cash boost, which would not be used for social care, would involve a future tax rise, saying the country would also have to "contribute a bit more" to health service funding.
Today in a speech, she will use her own personal experiences of the NHS to make the case for extra funding, praising the dedication of medical staff following the Manchester Arena bombing and recalling her diagnosis as a diabetic.
“I will never forget the support not just of my GP and consultants but also the clinical nurse specialists attached to my local hospital. Their advice was critical: enabling me to adjust to the new treatment regime, to manage my condition, and minimise the impact it has on my life.
"I would not be doing the job I am doing today without that support," she will say.
David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, hailed the knock-on cash windfall for Scotland, saying: “In the NHS’s 70th year, I urge the Scottish Government to invest this extra money in improving health services in Scotland.
“Our NHS is hugely valued by people in Scotland but we have seen services under severe strain in recent years. This additional UK Government investment in Scotland has the potential to make a real difference for people in Scotland.”
Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s Health Spokesman, said Mrs May’s promised Brexit dividend was “plucked straight from the magic money tree and even then it falls short of what the health service needs to stand still”.
But he added: “The SNP Government must ensure whatever consequentials that do arise from this are passed on to health and social care in Scotland. We know health boards are already being forced to make huge cuts over the next four years and the SNP has repeatedly failed to use the tax powers in the Scottish Parliament to properly fund the health service.”
Shona Robison, the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, also stressed the Tories’ claim of a Brexit dividend was “simply not credible” given the UK's near £40bn EU exit bill.
She emphasised how the SNP administration’s NHS funding had risen to record high levels and that it was committed to passing on “every penny of health resource consequentials to health investment in Scotland”.
Ms Robison said any cash windfall would be welcome given Scotland's budget had been cut by £2.6bn under the current UK Government.
“However,” she added, “if this is to be funded with personal tax freezes and borrowing, then other UK departments will face funding squeezes to meet the costs of Brexit and, as a result, any increases in health could be given with one hand and taken away with the other.
“The devil is always in the detail when it comes to Tories making funding promises.”