Tag Archives: NHS

Eric Holford: The Iain Duncan Smith Fan Club

Eric Holford Response in The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Eric Holford Response in The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

My recent letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser about Conservative and Unionist candidate Eric Holford generated a response from the great man himself, and I have reproduced this below. He states that I’m possibly confused about his stance on the NHS, this may be down to the fact my letter was heavily edited (see HERE for submitted and printed version):

https://anindependentscotsman.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/vote-tory-just-dont-come-running-to-me-if-you-break-your-leg/

Mr Holfords views on the NHS can clearly be seen on his Facebook posts; he believes that the NHS should NOT be protected from the effects of austerity. If that’s no longer his view I’d be interested to hear why not.

Eric Holfords views on the NHS.

Eric Holfords views on the NHS.

Mr Holford seems to be for assisted suicide, but has concerns that prescribing medicines which “prolong life” mean that people are living longer.

It would also appear that Mr Holford would like to see a return to means testing for prescriptions because “the richest one in seven” are eligible for them. Mr Holford appears to want to bring back a prescription charge which largely pays for the administration of the system and which will hit the working poor hardest because one in seven people are judged rich enough to pay a charge. The fact they are already probably paying 20%, 40% or more of their income in tax must be lost him. It’s estimated that after administration costs this would take around £50 million. With 5 million Scots, that equates to around £10 a head. I’d rather that was spread across the nation so than everyone, regardless of income, has access to good quality medication, unlike in England where the working poor who are deemed to rich to qualify for free prescriptions are often resorted to buying cheap, knocked off and often fake medicines. It is not unusual for people in England to ask their GP “Which of the items I have just been prescribed do I least need?” Should this be the system we aspire to just because the likes of JK Rowling are able to get the odd dose of medicine without passing over some actual ready cash?

Mr Holford also says that he would prefer to use this money to employ 1000 nurses. It costs around £70,000 to train a nurse for 3 years. Is the plan to train new nurses or attract qualified staff from abroad? You can’t increase nursing staff without also increasing support staff at the same time. Given that Jim Murphy claimed it would cost £250 million for 1000 nurses, and scrapping free prescriptions would free up only £50 million, where’s the rest of the money coming from? Increased tax or cuts elsewhere?

Mr Holford says that Scottish NHS spending has been protected by the Tories and has been cut by the SNP. He then cites two interviews by Tory stalwart and formerly respected journalist Andrew Neil, where Neil claimed that Scottish budgets have been protected by the Tories. Anyone who has followed the online debate between Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland and an increasingly irate and abusive Mr Neil would know that Mr Neil’s figures were slightly off, to put it charitably. Audit Scotland, Fiscal Affairs Scotland and economists Jim & Margaret Cuthbert are all of the opinion that Mr Neils reading of the figures he supplied were correct, but they are all agreed that in relation to this debate Mr Neil is using the WRONG figures, and there has been an actual cut of some 6-10% in real terms.

Who was right in the Andrew Neil Scottish Budget Row?

To put it simply, in terms even Kezia Dugdale could understand, if I have a salary of £10,000 and I receive no raise for 3 years, while my employer could reasonably say that they have maintained my wages with no cuts, if in the interim the rate of inflation has risen, tax has gone up, etc, then my real terms cash available to be spent goes down. Were Mr Neil not a paid BBC employee and journalist his online and often on screen output would be dismissed as trolling. Instead he becomes a point of reference for unionists everywhere.

Mr Holford has pointed out in both of his letters that he is disabled, and that point now needs no repetition. Every disabled person has a story to tell, some are not as fortunate in some regards as Mr Holford. He was, if I understand correctly, made redundant, and used that cash to start a successful business. If only everyone had that opportunity! Sadly they don’t, and as I said previously many disabled people would never be able to enter mainstream work and have seen employers such as Remploy who focused purely on those people closed down. Many years ago Norman Tebbit was criticised for telling workers to “get on their bikes” and go and find work. Mr Holford seems to be exhorting the disabled to get in their wheelchairs and do likewise. For some that is not, and never will be, an option. I’m positive about that.

Advertisements

Vote Tory: Just Don’t Come Running To Me If You Break Your Leg…

Letter to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser: 19/10/15 (Published 21/10/15)

Letters Page, Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Letters Page, Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I was almost sympathetic to the plight of Airdrie and Shotts Conservative and Unionist candidate Eric Holford which he detailed in a letter last week. Having travelled to England to attend the Tory conference he was allegedly subjected to some name calling by protestors. Perhaps he would prefer it if we were to follow his example and only issue insults by keyboard on social media, where he brands supporters of independence as “Nicola’s Clowns”. Perhaps he should ask himself what has motivated these people to travel from far and wide to vent their anger in person. It could be that the media acts as a filter and that they feel their message is not getting through to the government. I agree with him that it is unlikely that these protestors will make him change his mind about the present Tory UK government’s changes to the benefits system or ‘cuts’ as the rest of the country would call them. As I said previously, I was almost sympathetic to Mr Holford, until he stated that he held up Ian Duncan Smith as a hero. Mr Duncan Smith is to welfare reform what King Herod was to babysitting; more psychotic than heroic in my opinion.

Mr Duncan Smith has overseen a system where around 90 people a month die shortly after being classed as fit to work. Mr Holford would have us believe that by somehow removing the benefits from disabled people they will magically find jobs which will give them money and self respect. Instead they are being left with no jobs and no benefits either. Fantastic institutions such as Remploy, which employed disabled people and people with learning difficulties who would often have found major difficulty in obtaining mainstream employment, have been closed down and their employees thrown on the scrapheap. Is this the policy of a heroic individual? To me it’s anything but.

The Conservative and Unionist Party have recently been making a lot of noise about how they are the only party still firmly supporting the union, and this will be a major selling point of theirs in the 2016 Holyrood elections. But to vote for Mr Holford or his party solely on the basis that they wave the union flag is a grave mistake. Tory poster girl Ruth Davidson says that she wants to scrap free prescriptions. Mr Holfords personal views on the NHS are available on social media. I get the impression he supports a freeze on NHS funding so as to create a real terms cut to funding, for has clearly said that the NHS should be subject to austerity until Britain’s debts are paid. He also stated that the more we spend on the NHS, the more peoples lives are extended, and the more survivors there are the more those people cost to care for. There is a real danger that Mr Holford could be an MSP next year, and with views like that people must seriously consider if he or his party are fit to be anywhere near government. If you have any concerns about you or your family’s long term health and wellbeing, you should bear that in mind before voting Tory. And if after that you do vote Tory, when the cuts come, and they will, please don’t complain. It’s what you signed up for.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy,

Post Referendum Letters: 27/12/14 (Advertiser)

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

Whenever I read Coatbridge MSP Elaine Smith’s contribution to the Advertiser I find myself double checking that it is not Elaine C Smith who has written it. It’s always full of unintentional (I hope) comedy. Last week Elaine (not C) Smith called on all the parties in Scotland to put the referendum behind them and work together for the good of the country. I’d love to say that would be fantastic, but actions speak louder than words. Only a few days previously the manager of the Scottish Labour branch Jim Murphy declined to join with all the other Scottish party leaders in signing a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron protesting at the closure of the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre in Kinloss. Even Ruth Davidson of the Tories joined in to protest against Tory cuts, yet Jim Murphy cannot bring himself to unite for the common good and to save jobs and services in Scotland. Two years ago the Tories put Search and Rescue services into private hands and now the asset stripping and rationalisation that was warned of has arrived. Privatisation of anything which will raise a few bob was begun under Thatcher and has carried on under Labour. Labour have not reversed one privatisation initiative, and have even introduced a few themselves, so you would think it odd that Elaine Smith would hark back to the tale she told some time back that the SNP had privatised the railways. This tall tale was put to bed both in this paper and in the Rail Maritime and Transport Union news where Jeff Kirk of Edinburgh No1 Branch stated that he was “astonished” at Mrs Smith’s claims and pointed out that Labours pre-referendum proposals were “exactly what the Scottish Government had done”. He further pointed out that public ownership was outlawed by a 1993 act which Labour had never repealed during all their time in power. This is not likely to change either if a Labour does by some freak chance gain power at Westminster in May 2015 as they fully support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which as it stands will allow multinational companies to sue governments who block their bids to run almost any public service they choose to. At present the Scottish Government who have no power in this carve up are asking for guarantees to exempt the NHS, but what chance is there against the power of the UK Government, whether controlled by Red Tory or Blue? The fact is that Labour will say one thing in opposition, but do the opposite when in power. The late, great Groucho Marx once said “Those are my principles, if you don’t like them I have others.” Jim Murphy looks to me like a true Marxist in that respect, but while Groucho was funny, Mr Murphy is anything but.

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

The Referendum Letters: 11/05/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I feel I must reply to Sam Daly’s letter in this weeks Advertiser. As Sam says I have known him a long time. I served in the same regiment, support the same football team and work for the same company. However as I was responding to a public letter, in a public forum, I used the formal term when referring to him. After all, whether I know him personally was not something the Advertiser readers were aware of, nor needed to be, although they are now. It just detracts from the debate in my opinion. However if he wishes something less formal, I’m happy to do so.

As regards the principle of “if you have to say something to someone, say it to their face”, I think Sam has perhaps forgotten that he emailed his letter to me two weeks before it was published, and we debated it by phone and email at the time. I told him at the time that I would probably write in response, but wouldn’t immediately do so for two reasons. One, I was at the time writing a response to one of David Stephen’s letters. Two, I couldn’t very well write to respond to a letter which hadn’t been published yet!

Sam seems to think there is a problem with my arithmetic, however after double checking my facts it looks like he still misunderstands the tax system. The Scottish NHS is funded through the block grant, not council tax. His offer to pay more tax to fund the NHS wouldn’t affect council tax in any way.

Sam also states that my assertion that free prescriptions for all can be obtained for little more than was already being paid for a means tested system is a baseless supposition, yet provides nothing to support his claim. I do actually put in a bit of research before making any claim, unlike some of the more prominent members of the No campaign who make public statement about numbers which fail to stand up to any reasonable scrutiny. The figures I have show that free prescriptions cost Scotland around £57 million a year, but a system of means testing is estimated to cost over half of that, and depending on which source you read would be anywhere between £30 and £50 million pounds. The difference between the two systems is barely the cost of an average premiership footballer. Considering that in 2007, 800,000 people in England and Wales failed to collect all or part of their prescription because they couldn’t afford to pay for it, I’d say the difference is well worth paying.

On the subject of football, Sam mentions a conversation which took place while at a football match. I won’t refer to anything Sam has said in private conversations, as I do not believe that this is an appropriate place to do so. Having said that I would like to clarify one thing. Regarding the Bedroom Tax, I think I’ve always been pretty clear on this. I fully agree that social housing is a resource of the state, not the property of the tenant, and that some sort of system should be in place to make sure that it is used to the full. However to say to a tenant that they are being penalised for not moving into a one bedroom house when there are no such properties available is just completely wrong. Given that the editor has requested letters are kept short and I’m already failing miserably, perhaps I will return to this at a later date.

If Sam is happy with the union, fair enough. That is his entitlement. Some people have done well out of the union, such as our MPs (and their colleagues in the cash cow for elderly politicians that is the House of Lords, the Holy Grail of the gravy train). I would expect them to defend it to the last, irrespective of whether it is bad for the country as a whole. But for working class people to defend it, knowing that the cuts yet to come will be deeper and harder than before, irrespective of who gets in to Westminster simply defies reason. A no vote is a vote to set in motion a process which will emasculate Scotland and reduce us to regional status. Scotland isn’t a region. I’m not North British, I’m Scottish, and it is my view that we should be able to take our own decisions as to what goes on in this country. Just like any other country. The ever more influential Nigel Farage wants to see the Scottish Parliament scrapped. The Tories want our MPs reduced. Labour wants to scrap the Barnett formula by the back door. Both Tories and Labour are focussed on stripping the NHS to the bones, and will turn their sights on Scotland’s NHS if given half a chance. Strip away the union flag waving and the 300 years of shared history rhetoric, and that’s what is waiting. There will be a heavy price to pay if we cling to the UK comfort blanket, and it’s a price not worth paying.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 14/04/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to Sam Daly’s letter in last weeks Advertiser. I assume that from his letter that he is unhappy that the SNP’s definition of those who are poor differs markedly from his. Perhaps Mr Daly would like to bring in means testing, and all the costs that come with it? There are thousands of families across the country who work who no doubt would fall on the wrong side of Mr Daly’s line, and for whom a few days sick means losing wages they cannot afford to lose, leaving them to decide whether they can actually afford the medicine that will make them better. It’s all very well saying him that he is happy to pay more tax for better services, but he doesn’t speak for those I have mentioned. The truth is by stripping away the costly administration of the prescription system, it is possible to give everyone, irrespective of income, free prescriptions for little more than was already being paid. Isn’t that a fairer system? Or would he prefer that those who can as he puts it, afford it, can pay for it but not use it? 

He also states that our health service is in sharp decline due to funding cuts. Perhaps Mr Daly is unaware that our NHS, while independent of the English NHS since 1948, receives it’s funding as part of the block grant created under the Barnett Formula. This gives Scotland an allowance based on it receiving a small fixed percentage of how much England spends. As England moves towards a privatised NHS, government expenditure has dropped. PPP and PFI, along with privatisation ad directly billing the sick for treatment means that their NHS spending is dropping, and will continue to drop, and if their budget goes down so must ours, irrespective of our needs or our contributions. Even if Mr Daly’s generous offer to pay more tax was taken up it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference, because if England spends less, they will give us less of our money back to spend. Yet we Scot’s are the ones labelled subsidy junkies! 

He then goes on to complain that the SNP only agreed to pay the Bedroom Tax, which our Labour MP failed to oppose, when forced to do so. He completely misses the point that this is a completely unfair tax, as rotten as the Poll Tax, which should never have been imposed in the first place! Even worse than that, was that the money to pay this unfair tax had to be found from somewhere, so other budgets suffered because of it. Why complain about Social Services having their budgets frozen and then support stripping money through a completely pointless tax, designed to hammer those who can least afford it? 

Mr Daly seems to be parroting the ever more out of touch Johann Lamont, a woman at the head of a party now so bitter and twisted that it would scrap every last decent thing which has been put in place by the SNP, precisely because it was done by the SNP. The fact that at some point along the line she supported these policies makes no difference, and now she cries that Scots just want something for nothing! The SNP have succeeded where she and her party failed. God forbid that woman ever becomes First Minister, as she is all for reintroducing prescription charges, imposing higher council taxes, scrapping free bus travel for the elderly and supports cutting the amount of money that Scotland gets via the Barnett Formula. When I say that she supports it a cut, what I of course mean is that she is proposing that Scotland raise more of its own tax, which would indirectly lead to a cut in our block grant, and a massive drop in what Scotland gets, as the oil revenue which trickles back to Scotland would be turned off entirely. It’s just that Mrs Lamont doesn’t understand it’s a cut. Her recent shambolic television appearances when she had to speak without having things written down proved that. Other Labour figures have chipped in to provide clarity, such as Tom Clarke MP, only to muddy the waters by contradicting what their leader says, as it appears they don’t understand it either. 

Finally, as I’m sure Mr Daly knows all too well, the cuts to the opening times at Airdrie Police Station were carried out by Police Scotland, NOT the SNP, but why let the truth get in the way of things?. Even then I fail to understand his point. If you have lost your purse and can’t afford travel to the station, why does it make a bit of difference whether someone is manning the desk? You can call 101 to report it anyway. To me it makes more sense to actually have the police out on the ground dealing with crime rather than at a desk on the off chance that someone will want to drop by at three in the morning.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 27/07/13

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

I saw in a recent Advertiser that Alex Neil MSP had announced more funding to maintain services at Monklands Hospital. In a time of cuts that is to be applauded. Something that money can’t buy though is a change in the attitude of some of the staff there, especially in relation to the care of the elderly. Over the last year I have seen various family members having to be admitted to Monklands, and while some care has been adequate, never has it been outstanding. What stands above that though are the occasions when it has been shambolic, disjointed and uncaring. Undiagnosed injuries, paying scant attention to records (if they are even available), even the basics such as getting a patients name right. Every complaint can usually be laid at another department’s door, no one ever holds their hands up with a simple “sorry”, no doubt for fear of litigation.

My (and my family’s) experience has been one that has made me increasingly angry. Trying to complain can be like banging your head against a brick wall, and even the “we must learn lessons” line us usually trotted out as the feeblest of apologies has to be dragged out kicking and screaming.

On a recent visit, after running the gauntlet of smokers who guard the entrance, I noticed a visitor having to go and fetch a nurse to attend to a patient. The visitor didn’t know the patient, but saw that the aid alarm which the patient had sounded was being ignored. It wasn’t that there was no nurse available, just that they chose to ignore it. My heart goes out to those poor souls who have no visitors and no one to speak up for them. While others are visited, many of these old folk, many of whom have dementia are left to lie and look at the walls, denied even the small luxury of a television, either unable to operate the complicated controls or unable to afford the astronomical cost of switching it on, which would make even a loan shark blush.

Fixing staff attitudes and the uncaring culture at Monklands Hospital may not be the big headline grabber that Alex Neil would like, but to those who use the hospital it is every bit as important as financial investment, although I’m sure he’ll find it much harder to deliver.  

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy