Martin Lewis grills Nicola Sturgeon over independence bid
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SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insists a Scottish referendum be called by the end of 2023, when she hopes the coronavirus pandemic is “under control”. This month, she ordered officials to restart work on a “detailed prospectus” to kickstart her indyref2 bid, demanding “Democracy must — and will — prevail.”
And in her keynote speech at the SNP conference, she insisted her nation would be able to cope if they were to go it alone.
The First Minister told supporters: “For countries of Scotland’s size, independence works. It works for Denmark, for Ireland, for Austria, for Norway, for Finland — and for so many others beside.
“These are disparate countries with different resources and economies, but independence works for all of them.”
But it seems Ms Sturgeon has already shot herself in the foot, having proved her reliance on the UK Government in Scotland’s ongoing ambulance crisis.
Latest statistics in Scotland’s ambulance shortage:
- The Ministry of Defence has confirmed it has received a request from Scotland for the deployment of troops to help with the ambulance crisis
- Thousands of calls are being received every day
- Patients are waiting for several hours before crews turn up
- Staff shortages and ‘work force’ issues have been blamed for the long delays
- “temporary admission wards” on hospitals could be opened to ease busy A&E departments
- Ms Sturgeon said the situation was “not acceptable” and apologised “unreservedly”
- Scotland continues to have the highest level of coronavirus cases across the UK
On Thursday, the First Minister was forced to admit that the nation’s ambulance service was already “operating at its highest level of escalation”.
Call handlers say they have been receiving about 10,000 calls a month more this summer than last year.
While tragic stories coming out of Scotland tell of patients waiting hours for ambulances to arrive – in one case, up to three days, as the crisis spirals out of control.
The situation has been fuelled, in part, by not having enough ambulances on the road as many paramedics are assisting at vaccination centres.
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And with many A&E departments already at full capacity, dozens of ambulance crews are being held up for hours outside hospitals, unable to move on until their patient is admitted.
In a bid to quell the rising storm, Ms Sturgeon has been forced to turn to the British Army for support for the beleaguered service, saying: “Such military assistance is already being provided to ambulance services in England.”
Military personnel are now being drafted in to help drive ambulances, as well as to support paramedics and hospital technicians.
However their arrival has signalled a damning blow to confidence in the Scottish independence dream.
Writing in the Telegraph, former Labour MP Tom Harris said: “There you have it: when things are perceived to be going well, when there is an opportunity to beat England at anything, the SNP leader is only too pleased to emphasise the difference between Scottish and English policy.
“But when her own ministers’ incompetence catches up with her, she is equally eager to cite whatever is happening in England to justify her own decisions. Consistency is just so 1990s.”
His comments come after Tom Pope, deputy chief economist at the IFG, warn Scotland could struggle if independence is achieved.
He said: “It would be a smaller country without an established track record. These would not be insurmountable challenges for an independent Scotland, but there would be no avoiding difficult economic choices.”
More is being done in Scotland to tackle the ambulance shortages. Among suggestions being made is to reopen the NHS Louisa Jordan, which was set up to support Scotland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic but closed in March this year.
While others have press Ms Sturgeon to look into the workforce problem blighting Scotland’s health service.
Professor Michael Griffin, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, warned it is causing a “vicious circle” impacting all parts of the health service and must be addressed immediately if the situation is to improve.
He said: “We have staff absences from illness, recruitment and isolation, such that we’re not able to staff certain areas.
“There’s a real problem with getting patients out of hospitals at the moment and into social care, because there is a care home workforce crisis which is causing issues and bed blocking.”
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