Scottish Labour pledge 1,000 extra nurses
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has pledged to use a UK-wide mansion tax to fund an additional 1,000 nurses north of the border.
Delivering a keynote speech in Edinburgh this morning, the East Renfrewshire MP claimed the SNP are “starving the NHS of funding that even David Cameron wouldn’t dare to achieve”.
Murphy, who was elected leader of Scottish Labour last month, unveiled plans to recruit 1,000 more nurses over and above the number inherited should the party prise power back from the SNP at next year’s Holyrood election.
The move hinges on introduction of a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m throughout the UK, which Labour has pledged if it enters government at Westminster after May’s General Election.
The tax, which would fall primarily on homeowners in London and the south east of England, would contribute to £250m in additional revenue for Scotland by way of the Barnett Formula, he said.
Murphy said: “The pressures on the NHS are limitless. [There is] the pressures of an increasing number of people experiencing mental health [problems] with one in four Scots at some point experiencing mental health [problems].
“There is a need for a boost in community psychiatric nursing. The record-breaking life expectancy adds great pressures onto social care.
“There is no optimum number; the fact is that demands are limitless and what we are saying is that, whatever we inherit, we will increase by 1,000 using a new tax source. [We] just think it’s the right thing to do.”
The party would seek input from the health service, the Royal College of Nursing, trade unions and patients groups to determine how best to deploy additional nurses, although he cited “transforming” mental health services in Scotland as a priority in his leadership of Scottish Labour.
Murphy admitted that the so-called mansion tax “isn’t everyone’s cup of tea” while acknowledging that their pledge on nurses could not be funded “if it was just a mansion tax in Scotland by Scotland”.
“This is a UK measure and… I think one of the appeals in Scotland of it will be you’ll be taxing properties over £2m in London and the south east to pay for Scottish nurses in our NHS,” he added.
“It’s a uniquely Scottish Labour pledge because we will introduce the tax as a matter of choice, and [for] the SNP, out of constitutional conviction, it’s not a tax they could levy.”
Murphy insisted its introduction – which he claimed will capture “only a miniscule number of a tiny minority” of properties in London and the south east – is a “fairer” way of raising funds as he ruled out an increase in council tax rates.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said the number of whole time equivalent (WTE) qualified nurses and midwives in Scotland has increased by around 1,700 since the party came to power.
“Labour may have a new leader in Scotland, but it seems that their policies remain as nonsensical as ever," he said. "While Labour’s desire to follow the SNP’s lead in recruiting more nurses is welcome, their sums simply don’t make sense.
“Even if every penny of the money Labour expects a mansion tax to generate was eligible for Barnett consequentials, it would see Scotland gain far less than what Jim Murphy is claiming.
“All Jim Murphy is showing with these ridiculous figures is that he cannot be trusted with Scotland’s finances or Scotland’s NHS."