Davidson called out for “opportunistic” U-turn on NHS drug charges

Nathanael Williams

Labour and Tories scrap for voters as Davidson is called untrustworthy on the future of NHS Scotland

SCOTTISH TORY LEADER RUTH DAVIDSON and her party have come under pressure to clarify their position on NHS prescription charges, after it emerged that the party plans to flip its long term opposition to the policy implemented by the Scottish Government.

The move has resulted in the party and its leader being described as “opportunistic” and “shambolic” by political opponents, who cite the the Tories long-term lack of commitment to investment, nurses pay and EU nationals working in NHS Scotland as evidence of inconsistent support for the NHS.

With the UK parties ready to launch their manifestos on Tuesday, the Scottish Tories will produce their own Scottish manifesto to distance themselves from the policies of their UK parent party, which have seen a crisis of underinvestment in NHS England.

The policy U-turn from hostility to the policy free prescriptions to support is being framed by opponents as an attempt to solidify the inroads the party has made into Labour’s vote in Scotland, among those who see them as stronger on defending the Union.

“Across the country, the Tories’ handling of our valued NHS has been nothing short of shambolic.” Anas Sawar

Party insiders confirmed to CommonSpace that the party will call for a review of party policy on the free provision of some over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol and aspirin.

These drugs cost the NHS in Scotland more than £10m a year. The policy was originally brought in by the SNP in 2011 and in last years Holyrood elections, the Scottish Conservatives fought on a pledge to bring back the charges in Scotland.

According to the Telegraph, the Scottish version of the Tory General Election will be “short on specifics” and focus on the tried and tested themes which have seen the Tories fly past Labour over the past two and half years. Scottish secretary David Mundell said to the paper that the central issue of the manifesto will be a strong opposition to the SNP and to a second referendum.

He confirmed that: “Our opposition to independence and to a referendum trumps all other issues on the doorstep and we continue to come across more people who voted ‘yes’ and ‘leave’ who are very unhappy with the way the SNP are behaving over Brexit.”

The party’s health spokesman Donald Cameron said: “There is no doubt people in Scotland value the idea of free prescriptions. We have listened to them and changed our policy.”

In response to the revelations on the drug U-turn and General Election tactic, Scottish Labour has been trying to highlight its left of centre credentials to shore up its electoral base. Commenting on Ruth Davidson’s U-turn on prescription charges, Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar MSP said: “This is an embarrassing and opportunistic U-turn by the Tories.

“Ruth Davidson has shown once again she will do and say anything to win votes – but even now she won’t fully commit to ensuring everyone has access to the medicine they need.

“All this humiliating shift shows is that once again the Tories simply can’t be trusted on the NHS. Just this week, Ruth Davidson lined up with the SNP to block a pay rise for our hard-working nurses. Across the country, the Tories’ handling of our valued NHS has been nothing short of shambolic.”

Alex Salmond, former First Minister and the SNP’s candidate for Gordon, said: “Ruth Davidson used to describe free prescriptions as a ‘publicly funded bribe’ – but this Damascene conversion shows that even the Tories can reluctantly recognise that it is the SNP that pursues the right policies for Scotland.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokeswoman, said: “The Tories will have people scratching their heads on this one, wondering what the real reasons are for the U-turn, welcome as it is.”

Picture courtesy of Youtube

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