Whatever it is that Nichola Sturgeon is the most controversial figure in Scottish politics, she seems to know how to play her audience. Boris Johnson’s mocking 1% increase for NHS staff after everything they’ve been through was an open door.
And Ms. Sturgeon is going straight through, offering NHS Scotland staff a 4% increase. The reality, however, is that the SNP is the only party in Scotland that has been responsible for billing public wages for 10 years.
The 4% is clearly the right one, but also the least necessary. Wear and tear in the NHS was bad before Covid hit, with only six nurses supposed to occupy wards that are supposed to be run by eight employees.
Add in the sickness rate and vulnerable staff withdrawal and in many cases you have full wards with only half the staff available. The cut in apprenticeships following the Lansley reforms in 2012 had something to do with it.
But sales also play a role. It’s been like that forever. I remember my own mom talking about it in the 1970s that it was a problem, but these days younger people can see the pay and terms that are available in places like Australia and they are absent.
Also, keep in mind that all nurses must now have a degree, which means that it is much easier to sidestep sideways to a different non-medical career than it was before. However, all UK governments have kept them on a tight diet and the supply is tight too.
Johnson’s 1% rise below inflation gives the SNP a huge boost north of the UK border. But it also continues his government’s policy of paying nurses below the inflation rate, and as a body calls on them to take strike action in May.
And others, too, to get out of the system entirely.
Forget the emotionality of the war conditions (how fast can you fill a body bag nurse?) That they endured. That’s one hell of a stupid way of treating a massive investment in a college-educated population. Back to the drawing board for Boris?
But as my (real) friend Peter asks on Facebook, what about the Northern Irish executive? The Scottish government had to do it now because there are elections and Purdah is coming very soon. We have more time to do the right thing.
Will they do it?
Photo by RODNAE Productions is licensed under CC0
Mick is the founding editor of Slugger. He has written articles on the impact of the internet on politics and the media and is a regular guest and speaker across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty