Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Clashing Calculators

I'm wondering how long it will take the SNP to realise that you can't continue to cut taxes, freeze taxes, cut charges and not face the bitten arse of cutting services too.

As regular readers and friends will know I'm in a constant state of flux on my opinions on independence - I think Scotland could be a successful independent country, but I'm yet to be convinced of the need.

I've been really impressed by some of the work of the new Scottish Government and I think Alex Salmond is genuinely the best person for the job of First Minister, but over the past few days doubts have started to creep in. While I'm generally against prescription charges I'm unsure about the wisdom of gradually abolishing them. If 92% of prescriptions are free anyway is it such a big thing? Would the return of free eye tests not be a more useful first move?

I'm also quite disturbed to find that the Scottish Government is abolishing the ring-fenced funding for CVS and Volunteer Centres and passiing the buck to local authorities instead. Local councils are forced into a council tax freeze - the last thing they need is more fiscal responsibility passed onto them.

And the reporting of John Swinney's meeting with Yvette Cooper is concerning. Taking aside the fact that Alistair Darling, not Yvette Copper, is John Swinney's counterpart if this BBC report is true it just reinforces the belief that the SNP want to do a load of cool things in Scotland, but won't take responsibility for the payment of it.

The SNP have some great policies, and I strongly support their principle of social justice and equality, but these policies have to be paid for. By Scotland. Until the SNP government takes the tough decisions rather than just the popular ones it will appear less like a government and more like an Opposition party getting one (or several) over the actual government.


As pointed out by Jeff in the comments, eye tests are already free in Scotland. So apologies for getting that one wrong. My point remains the same - just with a different viewpoint. It's probably more important to ensure that the 30.1% of children not currently registered with an NHS dentist are given the opportunity than to abolish a charge with less than 10% of users pay. Will try to get my facts straight next time.


Jeff said...

Hmm, interesting post. And I guess it's fairly safe to say you are the type of floating voter that keeps Salmond awake at night.

I am pretty sure eye tests are free. Certainly every other optician seems to be offering them.

If 92% of subscriptions are already free then I guess this policy won't cost very much is one way of looking at it.

But I agree, Salmond can't believe the position he's in. I just hope it's as 'real' as the position of responsibility deserves to be.

Calum Cashley said...

I wouldn't go conflating the policies already being implemented with John Swinney's determination to ensure that Scotland gets every penny that is due to her.

John didn't go looking for money to pay for current policies - they're already accounted for in the budget - he went to demand that Scotland gets the resources to which she is entitled.

We already know that Scotland's allocation has been cut under this CSR period leading to the tightest spending round that Scotland has ahd - I wonder whether the rewriting to account for a Scottish squeeze was one of the reasons the CSR was delayed - and we know that Westminster will continue to cut into Scotland's resources, so we need a Government that will stand up for Scotland.

Should prescription charges be reduced and removed? I think so - there's some evidence that those who are poor but do not qualify for free prescriptions (including pensioners who have a modest works pension, low paid workers and those in periodic employment) sometimes don't take their prescription because it appears a cost too far. Apart from being bad for their health, it often means that they re-present with a more advanced condition and the treatment can be more expensive for the NHS. Add that to the massive administration costs of the current prescription service and there's a damned fine argument for the aboltion of charges and streamlining of the admin.