Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar has today launched his party’s election campaign ahead of Holyrood contests on May 6th and put a recovery plan for Scotland’s NHS following the devastating impact of the pandemic at the centre of it.
The opposition leader, elected by Labour supporters in February, has declared that Scottish Labour’s proposals for the health service post-Covid will “unite our country”, as opposed to representing “an obsession with what divides us”.
“Covid has reminded us of the value of our NHS, but the past year has not come without a cost. Waiting times have soared, there are missing cancer patients, a growing mental health crisis, and an exhausted workforce,” Sarwar said.
Referring implicitly to SNP infighting and the new Alba party, he added: “After the last few days, it’s clear that only Scottish Labour is focused on what unites us so that together we can build a stronger recovery for a fairer Scotland.”
The NHS plan prioritises getting cancer treatment back on track, via a screening programme catch-up, setting up rapid diagnostic centres, ensuring every patient has a dedicated cancer support worker and investing in clinical research.
The blueprint includes a catch-up plan for cancer screenings by increasing staff and processing capacity to clear the backlog of appointments within a year, highlighting that there are 7,000 missing cancer diagnoses as a result of Covid.
Second on the list is improving mental health care and support, with better access including dedicated mental health A&Es, a spending rise to 11% of the health budget, assessments for every pupil and back-to-the-workplace support.
Sarwar’s party has also pledged to address the backlog, value the workforce with improved pay in the long term and a health service for health care professionals, and deliver a National Care Service freely available at the point of need.
Scottish Labour’s “national recovery plan” has been outlined as follows:
- Jobs recovery: Guaranteeing a job for every young Scot by investing in a National Training Fund and a Business Restart Fund.
- NHS recovery: Funding our NHS to get cancer treatment back on track, improve mental health, and give carers the pay they deserve.
- Education recovery: Developing a comeback plan which invests in schools, and ensures IT support in every primary and secondary school.
- Climate recovery: Investing in green jobs and seizing Scotland’s hosting of COP26 to champion an ambitious climate justice plan.
- Community recovery: Creating a community recovery fund to invest in local areas and make our communities safer and strong
Glasgow MSP Sarwar, who was an NHS dentist before being elected as a Westminster MP in 2010, is standing in May against Nicola Sturgeon for the Glasgow Southside seat, while also being second on Labour’s list for the Glasgow region.
The Scottish Labour head has been clear that the party under his leadership rejects another Scottish independence referendum, but in response to Douglas Ross’ suggestion of a pro-union coalition he told the Tory leader to “grow up”.
“In case you hadn’t noticed Scotland is in the middle of a pandemic. This election is not some kind of game, it is about focussing on a national recovery,” Sarwar wrote after Ross sent a letter to Sarwar and Scottish Lib Dem chief Willie Rennie.
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