We are still two weeks away from FMQs returning to normal services with the results of the Scottish Labour leadership elections being announced on the 13th December. As such Jackie Baillie continued her role as custodian of the party in Holyrood, and turned once again to the issue of the NHS and the quality of care being given to Scottish patients.
Following the publication of some highly critical reports from Healthcare Improvement Scotland Reports on NHS Grampian, Baillie attacked the Government on consultant shortages, A&E and cancer waiting times being missed, falling numbers of nurses and risks to patient safety at the Health Board.
The First Minister responded by outlining that there was a Chief Executive in place, and the recommendations from the report would be taken forward to tackle the failures outlined in the report. She was critical of Labour, and accused them of criticising the NHS staff.
Baillie responded by claimed that the Scottish Government had been made aware of the problems, when the FM was still Health Secretary, and asked if this was also a failure of the Scottish Government to respond to the serious issues at NHS Grampian.
The FM denied that patient safety had been at risk, although acknowledged the conditions could have compromised it. She went on to attack Scottish Labour for not making commitments to protect NHS budgets. She again mixed criticism of the Health Board and criticism of the staff together to attack Labour. While perhaps unmerited, Sturgeon gave a strong performance. Baillie was also good, and managed to put the FM into a tight spot.
Ruth Davidson went on the subject of stamp duty following the announcement yesterday by the Chancellor that there would be reductions in Stamp Duty. This was made after the Scottish Government had confirmed that it would raise Stamp Duty on some properties. The impact, Davidson claimed, was that people in Scotland would be paying for more, under what she described as a “Swinney tax”. She went on to accuse the First Minister of being more left wing than Ed Miliband. Needless to say, this provoked some chuckles from the Government benches. The FM claimed that the housing market was different in Scotland, and that 80 per cent of transactions would either attract the same or less tax than they would under the new UK system.
It was always inevitable that the Conservatives would go on this issue, but Davidson didn’t make much of a dent in the Chamber. However it is unlikely the party will let this matter go as they look towards Edinburgh and the North East of Scotland for the 2015 elections.