Pressure grows for Cameron to veto TTIP if concerns over NHS are not addressed
The leaders of the SNP, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens have all backed a call from Unite for David Cameron to veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU, unless the parts with implications for the Scottish NHS are removed.
Meanwhile the Scottish Green Party has called on the Scottish Government to take a tougher stance, warning that TTIP aims to remove barriers to multinational corporations and could enable them to sue governments over profits.
Much of the opposition to TTIP centres on concerns over the proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a mechanism which could give companies the opportunity to take legal action against a state which introduces laws which have a negative impact on their economic activity.
Campaigners have argued that education, transport and energy could also be affected by the ISDS mechanism.
The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, will appear in front of the Scottish Parliament European and External Relations Committee tomorrow to explain his support for TTIP.
David Cameron has stated his support for the deal, saying he wants to tackle ‘myths’ surrounding TTIP.
Speaking at the G20 summit in November, the Prime Minister said: “Some people argue in some way this could damage the NHS. I think that is nonsense. It's our National Health Service. It's in the public sector, it will stay in the public sector. That's not going to change. It will remain free at the point of use.”
He added: “There's no threat, I believe, from TTIP to the National Health Service and we should just knock that on the head as an empty threat.”
Meanwhile, although the SNP supports TTIP in principle, Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney has previously expressed the Government’s concern over the deal’s implications for the NHS in Scotland.
On 5 August 2014, Finance Secretary John Swinney wrote to Christina McKelvie, convener of the European and External Relations Committee, to clarify the Government’s position on TTIP.
He wrote: “The Scottish Government believes that TTIP could deliver significant economic benefits for Scotland and has been engaging with the UK Government to maximise the benefits of TTIP for Scotland and to ensure that concerns about TTIP are addressed.”
In August Swinney said that then Health Secretary Alex Neil would write to the UK Secretary of State, asking for “cast iron assurances” that TTIP would not oblige the Scottish Government to open up the NHS to private providers.
Ahead of Lord Livingston’s appearance,
Alison Johnstone MSP, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said: "TTIP is a corporate power grab being negotiated in secret, threatening our NHS and putting at risk jobs and wages."
"While it's perhaps no surprise that the UK Coalition Government is prepared to roll out the red carpet for big business, the mixed position of the Scottish Government is causing serious concern among people I've spoken to in recent months. There's a real danger that this deal could make it easier for corporations to drive wages down and make employment even less secure. It could also weaken protections against the imports of GM foods and hormone-produced meat."
Unite’s pledge, signed by Nicola Sturgeon, Jim Murphy and Patrick Harvie, says: “We the undersigned believe that the provision of public healthcare by the NHS is much too important to be put at risk by the EU-US trade agreement, known as TTIP.
“We therefore call on the Prime Minister to make a clear statement to the European Trade Council that the UK will veto TTIP unless the NHS is fully and clearly exempted from the agreement and to use the veto if that exemption is not achieved.”
Unite Scottish regional secretary, Pat Rafferty said: "The message from Scotland to David Cameron is loud and clear, use your veto to get the NHS out of TTIP.
"The people of Scotland are united against the NHS being part of a US trade deal. It is time for David Cameron to put the interests of our NHS before the interests of US companies and investors."