The Celts lead, the English follow

Want to know how devolution works? Pick yourself a running sore that annoys everybody – and cure it. It’ll catch on. The SNP government has taken a huge trick by scrapping that curse of the already stressed, the hospital car park charge. Right away, a small avalanche has followed, first England – “Health chiefs in England were under pressure to scrap hospital car parking charges…” … then even someone at Stormont woke up to the possibilities. “Northern Ireland should follow Scotland’s example and abolish parking charges at hospitals, an MLA has said.” In fact the Welsh started the ball rolling but they did it so quietly you’d hardly have noticed. But Alex Salmond’s team did and snapped it up. The episode demonstrates that the devolved institutions are capable of setting the agenda for the English – and this can only be a good thing.

The Herald exposing its Presbyterian flank sees a problem. Ordinary street parkers may steal the newly free hospital spaces and crowd the deserving out. But then it occurs to them – there are ways round that one. Those popularity seekers the PFI hospitals are still holding out but it can only be a matter of time….. Even the resolutely free market Wall Street Journal has noticed the move, the paper itself to marvel at the very idea of free health care on demand and the disparities that Home Rule is opening up. And then there’s this WSJ blogger who is so stunned by the concept that s/he can only sneer. I wonder where anon picked up that habit up?

“Phew. Talk about entitlement. That is what freeness mentality breeds. Anything else? May we wipe your rear end while we are at it. After all, you shouldn’t have to tax yourself with that task!”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London