Former First Minister Henry McLeish has agreed to lead a review of health and social care in Fife if Labour is successful at the local elections next month.
McLeish, who led the introduction of free personal care in Scotland, says he would like to see Fife take a lead in Scotland and “pioneer” the development of “progressive” services for older and vulnerable people.
“At the end of the day I’d like to see a National Health and Care service in Scotland,” McLeish told Holyrood.
“Part of my task is to see whether in Fife there is a appetite for moving us forward. So Fife showing the way, Fife in the lead, Fife showing an interest in progressive policies for this older age group and those with special needs with a national care strategy at local level.” The number of over-75s in Fife is set to grow by almost two thirds in the next 12 years. McLeish, who represented Central Fife at Westminster and in Holyrood, said that councils ignore this demographic timebomb “at their peril”, adding that they can’t afford to wait for national government.
“Far too often local government waits on national government.
Local government is now subject to a council tax freeze, which means that their control over finance is limited. They are now subject to various concordats and other agreements, but at the end of the day I don’t think local government should sit back, or councils should sit back and always wait for government because government doesn’t necessarily know it all, and if you’ve got a good area with good things to build on, I think, this is one of the reasons why Fife should be able to show a lead in this progressive area of social policy.” The Scottish Government’s consultation on its own “radical reforms” to integrate adult health and social care is expected to be published next month. McLeish said that every local authority should be happy to contribute to the Government’s consultation, however councils should also have the confidence to bring forward their own ideas.
“At the end of the day local government, in my view, has lost a bit of its soul, a bit of its heart over the last decade and, I think, it really needs to build up its confidence,” he said.
“That is one of the reasons why it needs to take back to itself its own view, its own idea of how things can go forward. So, if you’ve got a progressive council working on this and you’ve got a progressive government then actually that is a great recipe.” McLeish, who led the council in the early 80s when it became the second council in Europe to introduce free travel for the elderly, said he would like to see Fife reclaim its mantle as a pioneering progressive council.
“There is no reason why, if we’ve moved beyond consultation, that Fife can’t be in a better position to say, ‘Look, we want to be a pioneer. We want to go further.
We want once again to re-establish the mantle we had in 1982 where quite simply we led, not only Scotland, but the rest of the UK in the provision of facilities that were absolutely critical for older people.’”