Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swine Flu vaccine row shows need for Holyrood reform

Heaven knows I'm not often one for finding sympathy with Nicola Sturgeon, but might she have a point when she says that if Scots are to be vaccinated against Swine Flu, then the money will either have to come from Westminster, or from existing budgets which have already been allocated for this year?

The reason I ask is because the Scottish Government is limited in its options - it can't borrow to get extra money to buy the vaccine, it would be ridiculous to put the money aside every year just in case, leaving essential services bereft needlessly so we'd have flexibility in the event of a contingency.

It seems to me that in a pandemic situation, especially under current arrangements, there is an argument for Westminster to give Scotland the extra funds it needs but doesn't have the capacity to raise itself.

It's things like Swine Flu that highlight the imperfections with the current system.

The Sunday Times reported last week that David Cameron is prepared to leave it until 2015 before he would do anything to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament. I don't think that we can afford to wait that long. Another good reason, if there aren't enough already (remember the '80s anyone) not to vote Tory.

If Nicola Sturgeon had said that we wouldn't get the swine flu vaccine unless Westminster paid, then she would be playing politics with our lives. However, she has raised a legitimate question about how a UK wide crisis should be dealt with and funded. It's something we do need to think about and learn from.

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