Let’s face it: the committee system of the Scottish Parliament is not the best example of democratic independence and robustness, so it’s always nice to see an SNP politician break ranks and tell the government what they really think. I am referring to Michelle Thomson, MSP for Falkirk East.

Ms Thomson was speaking at a finance committee meeting this week where she raised her concerns about the financial planning of the new NHS for Scotland. She said she was surprised by the lack of detail, which resulted in the government writing a blank check to the public purse. “What screams to me is the enormous risks,” she said.

You see where Ms. Thomson is coming from. The Scottish Government says the cost of setting up the new service will be between £644m and £1,261m over five years. However, an independent analysis by researchers at Holyrood puts it closer to £1.3bn (for starters). Ms Thomson argues that many of the factors that will affect the cost, such as IT and staffing, do not appear to be in the plan, not to mention that our population is aging faster and faster.

Another issue is heavily influencing the ambitions of the Scottish Government, particularly after independence. What they are proposing is a whole new system, massive bureaucratic reform, new procedures and so on, and the inherent risk that money is spent on new systems, new logos, new uniforms and everything else when it could be spent on the front line – to help people.

However, there is an even more serious problem that affects the basic principles of the care service. Health Minister Humza Yousaf and others tell us the new service is necessary because there is a so-called postcode lottery. They tell us that this means that some people in Scotland are getting different services to others, and this disparity needs to be addressed.

But is it really? I spoke to former MSP Andy Wightman about this recently, and he was typically tight-lipped. The idea of ​​a postcode lottery, he said, was one of the most intellectually devoid slogans in politics. Imagine, he told me, if the Prime Minister said there was a UK-wide lottery and that services in Scotland should be the same as in England. There would be, quite rightly, outrage.

So why should it be any different in Scotland? Yes, there are differences in the services that councils provide, but “postcode lottery” is the wrong way to describe it. What actually happens is that councils make different decisions – one may charge for a particular service and another may not – and that’s fine. Not only are local councils better than central government at knowing what is required locally, if we don’t like it we can vote them out. That’s how the system works and the last thing we need is for a minister to come and “fix it”.

Sir Harry Burns, the former Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, actually said something similar to another Holyrood committee. The risk, Sir Harry said, was that the new care service would be top-down and targeted, and the best way to get effective services, he said, was to ask staff what they needed and empower them to make their own decisions.

To a large extent, this is the crux of the problem. Sir Harry says people on the frontline should make decisions, but under the new system key decisions will be made by central government. Worse, systems will also be put in place to actively suppress local decision-making and dissent. Donna Bell, director of social care, admitted as much when she told the committee that one of the aims of the new service was to “improve consistency”.

The problem, however, is that consistency is the wrong goal, and the “postcode lottery” is the mythical bad guy. Councils and their staff should have the power and flexibility to decide what is best for them and the people they care for – it’s not a lottery, it’s local decision-making. And the last one. Don’t you find it a bit insulting that a government which opposes the ‘centralisation’ of Westminster should do the same to councils?

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