Is there an election coming soon? As there was a definite election undercurrent to today’s FMQs. Kezia Dugdale, once again, led on the issue of the NHS. This week she accused the First Minister of overseeing a “crisis” in the NHS.
In a series of questions, Dugdale repeatedly quizzed the First Minister, whether she could confirm what the figure for the number of people waiting more than 12, 8 and 4 hours respectively at A&E. Brandishing statistics, Dugdale stated that there had been a 170% increase in the number of people waiting longer to be seen at A&E and that this was simply not acceptable. Dugdale then looked to place the blame on this increase squarely upon the shoulders of the First Minister who she accused of ‘giving up’ on the NHS to run the referendum campaign.
Clearly annoyed by the accusation, the First Minister retorted that under the Scottish Government, the level of funding for the NHS has increased beyond £12 billion and that the number of people been seen within 12 hours was 99.9%. Sturgeon then turned her guns squarely on Labour, by highlighting, in her opinion, Labour’s record of running in the NHS in Scotland pre-2007 and the party’s poor performance in Wales.
Dugdale rose to state that the Government should start defending their record rather than pointing to previous and other devolved administrations records too which the First Minister responded that if Labour want to make the NHS the centre of its election campaign then “bring it on.”
The Scottish Conservative leader decided to lead with the issue of Police stopping and searching children under the age of 12. The Tory leader pointed to the fact that more children in Scotland are being stopped and searched than in London despite Scotland having a considerably lower population and level of crime.
Sturgeon, clearly happy to have moved away from the issue of the NHS, stated that the Police Authority has requested that Police Scotland justifies this practice in light of the figures Davidson had quoted. She also highlighted that the number of stop and searches of children under 12 has reduced.
Although Davidson welcomed this, she pointed to the fact that a senior police officer back in June 2014 had stated in front of a Parliamentary committee that the practice of stopping and searching under 12s as “indefensible”. Given this evidence, Davidson asked why this practice continued.
Sturgeon acknowledged the evidence and stated that a review of this practice was underway.
Willie Rennie led on the same issue of child stop and searches by Police Scotland. Sturgeon referred the Member to her previous answer.