Readers Letters: Sturgeon playing politics with NHS bonus
No-one is going to begrudge NHS and care staff their £500 bonus. They actually deserve a lot more. Indeed, you could say it was a derisory amount for the risks that people have had to endure in 2020, and for all the things that they will have had to see that they will hopefully never have to see again.
But what is First Minister Nicola Sturgeon up to? After she made her announcement, she asked the UK Westminster Government to ensure the £500 comes tax-free, despite the Scottish Government having full control of income tax. It is they who would be getting the money. It is not legal to simply waive income in the way that Ms Sturgeon is implying, so there is a political game being played here with NHS and care staff. Ms Sturgeon wants credit for giving them the money now, and she wants an argument over why the tax cannot be waived after the end of the current tax year, just in time for the election. Is this clever politics that we should applaud, or is it using NHS and care staff as a political football? Is the argument as important as the money in people’s pockets?
There are times when you can be too clever. If Ms Sturgeon wanted to do something that was in her power to do, she should have reduced all our taxes by £500 and recognised the effort everyone has put in this year, from shop workers and council staff, to farmers and delivery drivers. She has the money to do it because the UK Government have given it to her. NHS and care home staff would not have begrudged others getting £500 as well, not least because their wider families would benefit from it too, and the £500 would get multiplied and go much further and be more meaningful.
Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire
Nobody would deny that those health and social workers who faced and are facing this terrible pandemic deserve our gratitude. It may even be fitting to give them a £500 bonus. However, for the First Minister to extend this gratuity to all NHS and Social Services staff beggars belief.
This will mean that the orthopaedic staff who ceased, through no fault of their own, to replace hips and knees to people in agony, GPs and their office support staff who saw their visitations fall off a cliff, Accident and Emergency teams whose custom was down 40 per cent and dentists who offered no treatment at all for three months will be included. What about the oncology departments? We know people were dying of cancer because they weren't being referred. Will this largesse extend to the managers in the NHS, including those, who to make beds available, sent Covid-positive cases back to care homes to spread the virus to our most vulnerable. Will it also reward those in management who failed miserably to supply PPE?
This government has form for such generosity. It sends unwanted baby boxes to the wealthy and gives them free prescriptions. It also insists that we pay for the university education of their children. It is lazy thinking by a tired government. The final insult was the demand to Westminster that these cash sums should be tax free. This from a government which taxes our doctors and senior health workers more than anywhere else in the UK.
I would like to know what percentage of NHS and social work staff actually came face to face with a covid patient and what is the government's justification for extending the reward to the others. I thought the days of buying votes belonged in the past.
Howard Lewis, Hailes Avenue, Edinburgh
Cash for all
The bonus to the health and care staff will be welcomed and is deserved. However will the First Minister now reward the equally deserving private sector personnel who have lost their livelihoods due to her direct actions.
Iain Beattie, Palmerston Road, Edinburgh
Over to Boris
The tale of two governments was evident in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to SNP Conference. Last week Rishi Sunak’s spending review “rewarded” public sector workers for their effort on behalf of the country during the Covid crisis... a pay freeze. There were exemptions for those earning less than £24,000, they will be guaranteed a pay rise, and NHS doctors and nurses are still expected to receive a pay increase in 2021.
Contrast that with the announcement by Nicola Sturgeon at her party conference that the ongoing pay negotiations will continue, but in the meantime, in recognition of the huge effort of frontline workers in our NHS and care staff, the Scottish Government is making a one-off £500 payment to each worker.
But there was a caveat wrapped up in this announcement, a caveat to the UK Prime Minister not to tax this one-off payment to those dedicated workers Over to you Prime Minister!
Catriona C Clark, Hawthorn Drive, Banknock, Falkirk
The squandering SNP bread and circuses roadshow continues unabated this week with Scotland's own political King Croesus throwing yet more funds at another segment of Scottish society: this time the NHS.
But what about the countless teaching staff who have been in unsanitary environments since August without PPE and no social distancing. The always ignored support workers who have been on minimum wage for most of their careers in the Third Sector. People in retail, distribution, logistics and farming. Social workers. Postmen. The list could go on.
However, this is the standard operational tactic of the SNP; give money to one section of society to make your opponents look curmudgeonly, misogynistic, hateful, or (worst of all) “unkind”, further stifling and infantilising the quality of debate in Scotland, and hobbling the Opposition. In the meantime, actual difficult political and economic decisions will be pushed to local authorities or to the private sector.
To invert the famous phrase by President John F Kennedy to better reflect the Scottish Government: “We do these things because they are easy and popular, not because they are hard.”
David Bone, Hamilton Street, Girvan, South Ayrshire
For the open-minded viewer, Andrew Marr's interview of the First Minister didn't take long to expose the Emperor's New Clothes. However, perhaps with foresight, the SNP's spin machine had already put in place media announcements for free meals for Primary pupils and the generous "personal" heartwarming award of a bonus to health and care workers, out of tax paid by the people of Scotland or by virtue of the Barnett formula application, but for which the First Minister will take credit.
There is no doubt that the apparently borrowed Scottish Tories' manifesto pledge of free meals and recognition of health and care workers is merited, and I'm sure the announcements were not timed to distract attention from the ills and problems of the current administration or to try to win votes. The workers deserve it – but will it make them and other voters forget the neglect of the Scottish NHS for over ten years, the debacles with the Glasgow and Edinburgh hospitals and the decision by Nicola Sturgeon, as Health Secretary in 2003, to dramatically reduce recruitment of trainee nurses ?
Fraser MacGregor, Liberton Drive, Edinburgh
Stil l unequal
Can the proposals to give free school meals, free prescriptions, free sanitary products etc etc actually help the perceived problem of inequality in Scotland.
Of course those free items help those who have income that reduces them to a level of poverty that precludes the purchase of essentials such as school meals, medicines, decent clothing, make-up or even the odd cup of coffee at the local coffee shop. That is, those couples in poverty with children managing on incomes just below £25,000 and single parents with chlldren getting just under £20,000.
However, on any rational consideration, the issue of free items across the board must lead to more inequality rather than less, in that those whose incomes are such that parents are able to pay for those items now have additional income to spend as they wish – hardly the outcome of a government supposedly committed to reducing inequality!
Why is it so difficult to separate those who need additional help to purchase essentials from those wealthier families? W hy does our government feel that it is right that they should fund those items indirectly rather than by funding needy families directly. And why is Scotland’s loud voice in Westminster not heard demanding control of Income Tax so that the level of tax-f ree income can be adjusted to help those working couples living below the poverty level?
So many questions, it’s probably better for Nicola Sturgeon to stick to the daily virus briefings...much easier than fixing real problems for real Scottish people!
Tony Lewis, Parklands, Coylton, Ayrshire
It all adds up
So if Nicola Sturgeon is using local elections as a referendum and the “ people of Scotland” will sweep her to victory next May, will she accept votes cast rather than seats won? Lewis Finnie, Newbattle Terrace, Edinburgh
Failing to gel
It is perhaps a typical sign of living in P andemia , but when my wife and I turned up for a pub supper recently we found our isolated and freshly power-washed table adorned with a condiment tray comprising a salt & pepper cruet set, a bottle of tomato sauce and a dispenser of sanitiser gel (the alcohol content of which was tempting in its own right). The gel may well claim to kill 99.99 per cent of bacteria, but, sadly, it made the chips go very soggy.
Andy Davey, St Andrews Road, Peebles
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