Shetland Times Column 15th May 2015

Dust settles. Or so goes the conventional wisdom after elections as a government is formed and gets on with governing. However that does not apply to 2015.

. Nicola Sturgeon won all but 3 of the Scottish seats at Westminster. Congratulations to her and her party. They rode the crest of the anti-Westminster wave. The result was the most decisive protest vote in recent political history.

Nicola said that voting SNP would lock David Cameron out of Downing Street. Precisely the opposite has happened. The nationalist threat frightened England into voting Tory. The opposition in London can huff and puff but will not make any difference to the UK Government’s budget or new laws. The Tories will cut the odd deal with the DUP and Ulster Unionist MPs. Northern Ireland, which played a far cannier political hand than Scotland, will gain.

The Tory government are already set to introduce the laws that they could not with the coalition. A invasion of personal freedom and liberty from the Home Secretary. The repeal of basic human rights enshrined across Europe from the Justice Secretary and an attack on workers rights under the Business Secretary. None of this happened between 2010-15 but it will now. The Lib Dems self evidently got no credit for any of this, and indeed were comprehensively hammered by the electorate. Yet in the new Westminster Parliament with a Tory overall majority there is nothing the SNP can do about it other than join with Lib Dems and Labour to oppose such illiberal measures. I hope the opposition parties will come together and form a united voice of opposition. We shall see.

Politics in Scotland will return to health, education and transport. Take mental ill health. The Scottish Government have switched funding from hospital to care in the community. But as Shetland’s local Mental Health Group point out, the Islands have no in-patient service so there is no money to transfer that would support a community service. Meanwhile demand is rising. Community mental health referrals have risen from 35 in January 2013 to 59 two years later. The NHS is under pressure from families and individuals who expect and deserve more attention and support.

The ongoing crisis at NHS Grampian does not help. Non specialist nursing staff routinely cover Cornhill psychiatric hospital. Parents have explained what that means and the importance of recruiting specialist, knowledgeable staff. Shetland will always need some specialist care in Aberdeen. Research is an essential component. The Scottish Government’s own mental health working group said that this was essential for good psychological care for people. So it is puzzling and alarming that the Scottish government have cut research spending from £4million in 2008/09 to only £860,000 this year. Shetland needs to build stronger mental health care services. NHS Shetland has just recruited two new psychiatrists. But there is a long way to go in bridging the gap between diagnosis and prevention. We need government to recognise that there change in funding has not helped Shetland. That must change.

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