Shetland Times Column 1st May 2015

Strictly CLAN dancing was one of the most terrifying events I have ever been part of.

This wonderfully successful fund raising evening raised thousands for CLAN in Aberdeen. They provide a welcoming and warm home from home for many Shetlanders tackling cancer. The CLAN House in Aberdeen is an essential service as is the centre in Lerwick which is a place of great confront and support.

The potential of charges at weekends at CLAN is not good. NHS Grampian is cutting CLAN’s financial support. Most islanders using CLAN are in Aberdeen over a number of weeks. CLAN’s Debbie Thomson was very sensible on the radio this week trying to work out arrangements to minimise disruption. This is not her fault. Cuts by NHS Grampian are the root cause.

Why is NHS Grampian under such pressure? They are totally funded by the Scottish Government. But health services in Aberdeen are under real pressure. Brilliant, committed front line staff face huge pressures. Mental health services is another area where there are real concerns both about enough staff and the service.

Money is at the core of any discussion about public services. So all the political parties are making their pitches in the General Election campaign. If you want a dispassionate, independent assessment of what is being said read the Institute of Fiscal Studies. They have looked at all the parties spending proposals. Proposals that need to include more money for hard pressed health services in places like Aberdeen.

In measured terms the IFS say, “While the SNP’s plans imply a slower pace of austerity than those of the other parties, they also imply a longer period….There is a considerable disconnect between this rhetoric and their stated plans for public spending which imply a lower level of public spending by 2019/20 than Labour.”

Anyone who wants to carefully think through all the explosive language on austerity might wish to consider what the IFS are saying about the SNP. Austerity yes and for longer.

Funding schools and hospitals in Scotland is helped by a formula. This gives Scotland 18% higher public spending than the UK as a whole. Fact. The SNP want to abolish this formula with disastrous financial consequences. The nationalists current spending record needs scrutiny too. Real terms spending on the NHS in England and Wales has risen by 4% since 2009. In Scotland it has fallen by 1%. So the so-called pro-austerity UK government has increased health spending while the self styled SNP Government has cut spending on hospitals, nurses and key health staff. Shetland is underfunded by £800,000 a year under the nationalists own formula.

Shetland does not need a SNP representative at Westminster to defend the nationalist record against our interests. That is what their list MSPs do now. Our islands need an MP committed to the Islands. That is Alistair Carmichael’s record as your MP. In a fraught political time, we need a experienced, committed representative. That is the stark choice next week.

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