Skye GP’s warning on No vote

BY MICHAEL RUSSELL michael.russell@whfp.co.uk

Voting Yes in next week’s referendum is the best way to protect the NHS in Scotland from an international free trade agreement that is currently being drawn up by the European Union and the United States, it was claimed this week.

According to a letter in the Free Press — signed by four GPs from Skye and Lochalsh — the Trans-Atlantic Trade Partnership could have a “critical impact” on the future of the NHS as it says that state services should be open to private competition from American multinationals.

However, in addition to his comments in this week’s letter, Portree GP Dr Stephen McCabe (pictured) told the Free Press that, as it currently stands, only those aspects of the health service in Scotland that had already been outsourced — IT and telecoms — would be affected. In England, by contrast, any Clinical Commissioning Group could be sued by an American healthcare firm for unfair competition. Dr McCabe added: “Investor State Dispute Settlement laws — a core component of TTIP — legally protects the profits of corporations regardless of patient care performance.

“Once these ISDS tools are in place, contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the government wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue the government for future loss of earnings, resulting in further costs to the taxpayer for legal and administrative costs.”

As the referendum approaches, Dr McCabe also criticised the language used by a number of Scottish Labour politicians.

He said: “I think the language of a number of Scottish Labour’s ‘leading lights’ during this referendum debate has been appalling. It started with Johann Lamont last year saying that the referendum would be a chance to ‘eradicate the virus’. Then Ian Davidson, MP for Glasgow South West, talked about the supporters of independence needing ‘bayoneted’. Then we had Alistair Darling not disagreeing with the description of Yes as “blood and soil nationalism” (a clear reference by the interviewer to Nazi Germany).”