Barrie Cunning: Humza Yousaf must stand down

HUMZA Yousaf must take responsibility for the failing NHS crisis in Scotland and do the right thing and step down as Health Secretary.

This week the SNP were out in force rallying the troops as they concluded their annual conference with an emotive and passionate sell of the endless possibilities that can be undertaken and achieved if Scotland were to become an independent country.

Nicola Sturgeon, in her closing remarks, said: “Democracy must and will prevail”. As a democrat, unionist, and a strong advocate of devolution, I fundamentally believe and agree with this statement.

I suspect, however, at some point along the last 14 years the SNP have lost their way and that this is more of a soundbite as in 2014 democracy did prevail and, thankfully, Scotland remained in the union.

Presumably this vision of independence includes a better NHS, ensuring better response times for Scotland’s ambulance service, better education for our young people, more support for businesses both large and small, a government that is open to business that will act as a champion for attracting more inward investment as opposed to being cut off from the worried voices of industry, and a better deal for the many women and men who work in Scotland’s public sector, who we have relied on during the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The party faithful are applauding their leader for spelling out what can only be described as a utopian vision for an independent Scotland where every social injustice, from homelessness to poverty, will be addressed by the stroke of a pen at the ballot box in a second referendum. However, this parallel universe is a far cry from what is actually happening on the ground under the SNP’s watch, which is likely to get worse unless urgent action is taken now.

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The problem with centralised populist parties in power is that they often don’t want to acknowledge the reality of their own short-comings in government and adopt a bunker mentality where criticism is met with deaf ears. That is very much a key characteristic of the SNP but even they can see the writing on the wall – or should I say the writing on most of the front pages of Scotland’s newspapers about Scotland’s failing NHS. If unaddressed, this will come to define their time in office.

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens and it’s clear that the SNP are failing. But what astounds me is that we have a Health Secretary who is advising people to “think twice” before calling for an ambulance due to pressures on the NHS.

I find it an absurd message from a Health Secretary who should be outlining what the Scottish Government intends to do to remedy the situation as we are about to enter the winter months which we know is always challenging for the NHS. Especially as we could see a rise in Covid-19 infections this time.

The implications of the “think twice message” is that many people, especially elderly people, will now be put off calling for an ambulance should they need one as they won’t want to be seen as being a burden on an overstretched NHS, which is nonsense given that they have paid into a system that was designed on the founding principles of free to use at the point of treatment.

I have to say I’m angry and sad as, over the last week, The Herald has reported about a pensioner waiting 40 hours to get an ambulance and sadly dying as a result of not receiving the treatment he should have had, even though his GP repeatedly advised 999 call handlers that his status was critical. We read, also, of a woman who had to wait over 20 hours for an ambulance.

This is not the Scotland I want nor recognise and we can do far better than this. The SNP will continue to talk about how independence will improve Scotland’s fortunes and that they are the only party standing up for Scotland – try telling that to the families that have been let down by a government that is now advising people to “think twice” if they need an ambulance.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that Humza Yousaf isn’t up to the job as Health Secretary and should accept responsibility for the NHS failings under his watch and resign.

Barrie Cunning is the managing director of Pentland Communications and former Scottish Labour Party parliamentary candidate. Follow @BarrieCunning

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The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992