Anas Sarwar vows to save NHS 'broken by the SNP'

Anas SarwarImage source, PA
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Anas Sarwar has accused the SNP of "breaking" the NHS as he set out Labour's plans for the health service, should the party win the general election.

The Scottish Labour leader said a government led by Sir Keir Starmer would cut waiting times and increase access to GPs.

He also vowed UK funding could provide 160,000 more appointments in Scotland.

Health is a devolved issue with funding determined by a population share of the amount spent by the UK government in England.

Mr Sarwar also said the NHS would be safe in Labour's hands and added it would never be sold off to private firms.

Mr Sarwar said: "The Labour Party will always defend the NHS. It's in my DNA, but it's also in the Labour Party's DNA.

"We created the NHS, we saved it in 1997, and we will save the NHS again."

In Scotland the NHS has struggled in recent years, partly due to rising A&E waiting times.

Last year they were 250 times higher than 2019, before the Covid pandemic.

The latest data also shows NHS waiting lists in Scotland reached a record size at the end of March, with 690,000 waits for planned outpatient or inpatient care.

Including those also waiting for tests, the figure is more than 840,000.

Mr Sarwar used his speech in Edinburgh on Wednesday to declare the NHS was "on its knees".

He said: "The damage inflicted on our NHS by the SNP is an absolute scandal.

"SNP first minister after SNP first minister, SNP health secretary after SNP health secretary should hang their heads in shame for breaking something so precious to us all."

He said the country now had a "two-tier health service" where some patients are forced to access private healthcare for treatment.

Mr Sarwar added: "Let me make this crystal clear to the SNP: A Labour government in the UK, and in Scotland, will never, ever privatise the NHS. It is our baby.

"Stop the scaremongering and the lies. Stop insulting the intelligence of people across Scotland."

"We will get out NHS back on its feet."

He said the "first priority" of a Labour government would be to tackle waiting lists, with plans to deliver millions every year in funding for Scotland.

Whisky, hydrogen and jobs

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Scottish Conservative Party chairman Craig Hoy pledged to fight for the "permanent removal" of export tariffs on sales of Scotch whisky to the US.

He made the remarks during a visit to a Glasgow distillery, highlighting his party's "unwavering" support for the industry.

Wendy Chamberlain, deputy leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, made an appearance at a green hydrogen start-up on Harris, in the Western Isles.

She announced the party would put tackling climate change "at the heart of a new industrial strategy" and would "seize the economic opportunities of net zero now".

And in an SNP campaign video, First Minister John Swinney said he would work with unions to secure a future for Grangemouth, following the closure of the refinery.

There are fears that jobs are at risk, but the SNP leader said he "cannot allow things to happen that are going to damage Scotland".

Meanwhile, Many Scottish Greens were in Holyrood to hear the final stage of a debate on MSP Gillian Mackay's buffer zone bill.

The UK party launched its manifesto earlier, in which it pledged to raise taxes on the wealthiest and those earning more than £50,000 in order to generate £70bn to help pay for the NHS.

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