After the vote

14 November, 2014

It’s now certain that the fallout of the vote on Scottish independence will have repercussions not just in Scotland but also throughout the UK. Hardly had the last ballot paper been counted than conversation had moved on to the content and meaning of ‘the vow’ from the three main unionist party leaders in the last week of the campaign, and the simple-sounding, but potentially complex, issue of ‘English votes for English laws’.

Before the referendum, Scottish Dental brought four figures from different sides of the campaign together at the Scottish Dental Show to discuss the motion ‘Scottish general dental practice will be better for patients and dentists in an independent Scotland’.

Now that the vote has taken place we are giving two of those participants the chance to look back at the campaign and give their perspective on its highs and lows, and, more importantly, what they think the result means for dentistry and the NHS in Scotland. Gerard Boyle is a partner in Shawlands Dental Practice in Glasgow and is a keen advocate of independence for Scotland.

“During the referendum campaign I sometimes felt that I was something of a lone voice in the dental profession, advocating independence for Scotland. However, I was not alone, but there is no doubt that ‘yes’-voting dentists were thin on the ground – by my estimation we probably represented less than 10 per cent – significantly less than the eventual 45 per cent of the population who refused to be taken in by the ‘project fear’ mantra of Cameron, Clegg and Brown – dubbed ‘three cheeks of the same backside’ by none other than fellow unionist, George Galloway. There’s irony for you.

“Well, as a consequence of the decisive ‘no’ vote, amongst other things, we are stuck with the GDC as our regulator for the foreseeable future.

“And what of NHS dentistry, the market most of us operate within? Despite the assurances of the ‘Better Together’ camp that since health is a devolved matter, its state of health is purely in the hands of the Holyrood government, let me swiftly debunk that myth. The Holyrood government can only work with whatever pocket money they are given. They are not magicians. However, their Westminster paymaster have a few tricks up their sleeves. They will make some of that money vanish.

“We had that mendaciously underhand piece of flimflam spun from the ‘no’ camp in the last week of campaigning, to suddenly offer us all sorts of enhanced devolved powers – the so-called ‘pledge’ from the Prime Minister. That ‘pledge’ was, in fact, so vague that the Conservatives and Labour have completely different ideas of what was implied by it.

“In reality it was a promise of nothing, and the skittish electorate were no doubt taken in by its dupery.

“If I am able to grasp any straws from the fallout of the referendum, I would like to see a continued political pressure to deliver a devo-max settlement of some substance – by devolving all tax raising powers to Holyrood. We’d soon see who the subsidy junkies are.

“It is a fact that will surprise most people that more income tax is raised per capita in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.

“I would go further still and allow the Scottish Parliament to also collect corporation tax. Then you can stick your Barnett formula where the sun don’t shine, Mr Cameron.”

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour Deputy Leader, was a dental general practitioner before he became Member of

Parliament for Glasgow Central in 2010. A key figure in ‘Better Together’, he was the campaign co-ordinator for the Labour Party campaign during the referendum.

“I would say that among the highs of that campaign was the fact that we had such an engaged electorate in Scotland. People were fully involved in the democratic process and made their voice heard,” Anas said.

“There was an indication, whether people voted yes or no, of a real desire for change. And as someone who fundamentally looks for change in the way we are as a country I think it was good to see that strong message come through. There is an opportunity to say let’s come together and work together to create a better Scotland and a better United Kingdom.

“In terms of lows, one thing that came through is that although our country isn’t broken, it is clear that our political, social and economic model is and needs fixing. Similarly, communities and families were divided on the issue of the referendum and we must bring people back together.

“Another low was the scaremongering and lies regarding the NHS. There was an attempt in the last few weeks of the campaign to say that if you vote no there will be privatisation of the NHS. That wasn’t true – our NHS is independent in Scotland and we must recognise it is not fit for purpose for the 21st century. It needs radical reform and the way we do that is by undertaking a fundamental review to make sure we take the profession, the workers and the patients forward together.“We should recognise that what’s been happening in England has not impacted negatively on Scotland in terms of budget consequentials. We should also recognise that the Barnett consequentials have actually gone up for running the NHS, but the Scottish government has chosen not to match those with added investment in our NHS. Devolution protects us from what’s happening down south, it doesn’t cause problems for us.

“The pretence that our NHS is fine in Scotland is not one I share. Over the last seven years we’ve had a failure to recognise the reality of what’s happening in our NHS. A government focused on a referendum saw sticking plaster politics applied rather than the changes needed to make the NHS fit for purpose for the 21st century.

“That’s why we have proposed a ‘Beveridge 21’ review on building the NHS and maximising and guaranteeing its resource so that it stays out of private hands, provides the service needed by the people and integrates both healthcare and social care.”

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