Yousaf’s Holby City tribute act is no solution - Sue Webber

Not quite kicking and screaming, but for all the reluctance to allow the Scottish Parliament to have a proper discussion about the crisis facing NHS Scotland, health secretary Humza Yousaf might as well have been dragged to the Holyrood chamber on Tuesday.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians

His colleague Angus “air miles” Robertson showed no such reluctance to attend because the fantasy of separation is his pet subject, and the independence debate he led on our first day back had been planned by the SNP weeks ago. Nothing is easier than talking about something which isn’t happening and for which you will never be responsible.

But the Scottish NHS crisis is happening and Humza Yousaf is responsible, yet more parliamentary time was set aside for the independence never-never than our failing health service in the here and now.

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When it comes to genuine accountability, the SNP treats the Scottish Parliament as an irritation and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s contempt for the opposition is not so much ill-disguised as a default position.

The contempt is infectious and rather than working collaboratively with other politicians who have plenty to offer in what is undoubtedly a national emergency, on Tuesday Mr Yousaf was utterly dismissive of a Conservative NHS action plan produced by someone who knows what they are talking about.

Mr Yousaf likes to parrot medical jargon, but there is very little sign he actually knows what he’s talking about and no evidence such action as he claims to be taking is making any meaningful difference.

By contrast, Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane is a GP and former orthopaedic registrar who spent the holiday touring practices to get a genuine feel for what was happening across the country and I spent over 25 years working with hospital consultants.

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Our 14-point recovery plan, including streamlined specialist “Super Saturdays”, the expansion of same-day operations and more off-peak scanning, proposed practical, deliverable solutions based on real professional expertise.

Mr Yousaf is a partisan, machine politician who has only ever worked for the SNP, but with all the clinical experience a Holby City series can offer his high high-handed response was to poo-poo the plan as “not particularly helpful or useful”. How could he know?

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He told us all would be well when he brandished an NHS recovery plan in August 2021, and then claimed everything was under control when presenting a “Winter Resilience Overview” pamphlet in October. Now he has been forced to concede everything is far from well, and every day demonstrates he has less control than a Virgin Orbit rocket.

Two weeks ago, over 2,500 people spent 12 or more hours in A&E units, and by Mr Yousaf’s admission there are over 1700 people stuck in Scottish hospitals who are fit to leave, but all he can do is find places for 300. If this is the best the weekly ministerial advisory group meetings ─ apparently established months ago ─ can produce, then this crisis is far from over.

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However, one important lesson has been learnt, with Mr Yousaf admitting “it is right for health boards to retain decision-making at local level so that they can determine how best to flex their services.” We’ll remember that when his government spends £1.7bn ripping social care from local authorities.

Sue Webber is a Lothian Scottish Conservative MSP