SNP's mishandling of NHS is sign of managed decline of everything we cherish – Ian Murray MP

People across Scotland are facing anxious and desperate waits for vital healthcare treatment for a vast array of conditions.

Whether it’s seeing a local GP, a doctor at A&E, or an oncologist for cancer treatment, the delays in our NHS are catastrophic.

Sadly, it’s become the new norm under the SNP, with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf nowhere to be seen and his boss Nicola Sturgeon more interested in picking fights with Westminster than addressing hospital waiting times.

They just hope that nobody will notice, or nobody will care.

But while they neglect their duties, we are storing up huge health problems for the future. And one area which has previously not received the attention it deserves is dentistry.

So I was encouraged this week to see the BBC delve into this crisis, uncovering that four out of five NHS dentists in Scotland are not accepting new adult patients.

That chimes with my own recent research, which found that of 104 NHS dental practices across Edinburgh, only 16 are accepting new patient registrations. Which means it’s even worse here than in other parts of the country.

I know from my own inbox just how difficult it is for constituents to access a GP or dentist, and I know it will be the same for all the Capital’s MSPs and MPs, even if the SNP wants to keep it quiet.

The difficulties many face when trying to see a dentist are just one sign of the NHS crisis (Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The British Dental Association has called on the government to give short-term funding support to dentists to tackle the backlog.

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Years of SNP neglect and the mishandling of the pandemic has devastated the dental service in Scotland. That’s why Labour is calling for an urgent review of the system of payments for dental services.

Without that, we risk tens of thousands of patients going untreated, creating a tooth-decay timebomb, and a two-tier system which leaves those most in need behind.

These are the kind of very real problems that should be prioritised by SNP ministers. But Sturgeon has a simple stock answer to every challenge in Scotland: she claims she can’t do anything about it. Utter nonsense.

As Anas Sarwar highlighted, a worrying form of Scottish exceptionalism has dominated our political debate recently, with the SNP claiming that UK institutions are broken but everything is rosy in Scotland.

I’m sure there will be the usual letters to this newspaper from people reading this column who want to focus on the scale of the problems with England’s NHS.

But pointing out people are facing unacceptable delays to see a dentist in Liverpool under the Tories shouldn’t be seen as a comfort blanket or an excuse to ignore the failings here in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament and its government were supposed to be examples of transparency to build public trust in politics.

Yet we have a government which seeks to avoid scrutiny and backbenchers who suspend their responsibilities in the name of party discipline.

There needs to be a laser-like focus on the issues that really matter to people, like access to dental services.

And we need to reform politics so that we enhance our democracy, rebuild the structure of our parliament, and combat the culture of secrecy and cover-up that has defined the SNP.

Otherwise, we will just have managed decline of everything we cherish.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South