Whatever about Nichola Sturgeon being the most divisive figure in Scottish politics, it seems she knows how to play her public. Boris Johnson’s derisory 1% rise for NHS staff after everything they have gone through, was an open door.
And Ms Sturgeon is walking right through it, offering staff in NHS Scotland a full 4% rise. The reality though is that the SNP has been the only party in Scotland that’s been in charge of public pay settlement for the last 10 years.
The 4% is clearly the right thing to do, but it is also the least necessary thing. Attrition in the NHS was bad before Covid hit, with something just six nurses to man wards that are supposed to be run with eight members of staff.
Add in the sickness rate and the withdrawal of vulnerable staff members and in many cases you have full wards with only half the staff available. The slashing of training places after Lansley’s 2012 reforms had something to do with it.
But turnover is also a factor. That’s always been the case. I remember my own mother talking about it being a problem in the 1970s, but these days younger people can see the pay and conditions available in places like Australia and they’re off.
Bear in mind too, all nurses now have to be degree educated, meaning that moving sidewards to another non medical career is much easier than it was before. Yet all governments in the UK have kept them on a tight diet and the supply tight as well.
Johnson’s below inflation 1% rise is giving the SNP a huge fillip north of the GB border., but it also continues his government’s policy of paying nurses below the rate of inflation, urging them as a body towards strike action in May.
And yet others to get out of the system altogether.
Forget the emotionality of the wartime conditions (how quickly can you fill a body bag nurse?) they’ve had to endure, that’s one hell of stupid way to treat a massive investment in degree educated population. Back to the drawing board for Boris?
But, as my (real) friend Peter asks on Facebook what about the Northern Irish Executive? The Scottish government had to do it now, because it has elections and purdah is coming very soon. We have more time to do the right thing.
Will they do it?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty