We telephoned Organ Donation Scotland on Friday for their reaction to the despicable scare stories being put around by a teenage Labour activist from Liverpool bussed up to Scotland last week by the No campaign.
We’re still waiting for them to get back to us with a quote. But in the meantime, it’s been predictable – but no less disgraceful – to see senior Labour figures repeating the lie. It all seems to be part of a major Unionist offensive on health, doubtless sparked by fears that privatisation of the English NHS will lead to a significant reduction in the Scottish block grant and corresponding damage to the Scottish health service.
The No camp, unsurprisingly, has chosen to fight fear with fear.
It should go without saying that the organ-donation story is utterly baseless scaremongering. The four health services covering the UK are already independent but co-operate closely on transplants, as they do on everything else. The transplant service already operates across the entire UK (and also Europe) by virtue of reciprocal agreements which would be completely unaffected by any political change.
(Scots are more generous organ donors than most of the UK. As with public spending, we give proportionately more than we get back.)
But Labour weren’t done with trying to frighten Scots yet. Kezia Dugdale MSP’s column in today’s Daily Record fumes with pretend outrage at an alleged claim by an unnamed Yes campaigner that charges for visiting your GP might be introduced after a No vote. Dugdale’s fake fury seethes from the page:
Of course, in the 2010 election nobody was advocating privatising the Royal Mail, but it still happened. The Tories stood on a promise to end “top-down reorganisations” of the NHS – going so far as to include that pledge in the coalition agreement – and then immediately embarked on what the BBC described as “the biggest reorganisation [of the English NHS] since its creation”.
And political parties may not (yet, officially) be advocating GP charges, but plenty of influential bodies are, and a majority of English GPs support the plans. That doesn’t mean it’ll definitely happen, but it’s certainly a very plausible prospect, and one we’d put an awful lot more money on than on Kezia Dugdale ever outsprinting Usain Bolt.
But the Labour MSP wasn’t finished fibbing.
There are at least two lies in that claim. Ireland isn’t even remotely “the one place you have to pay” for a GP visit – in fact around two-thirds of EU countries charge for GP appointments. And the charge in Ireland isn’t “50 euros a visit” either. The truth is that there are no set fees, that around a third of people are eligible for exemptions, and most parties in the country have plans to extend exemption to everyone.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what Kezia Dugdale is trying to do by brazenly misinforming Scots about healthcare in Ireland. The implication is that an independent Scotland would have to follow suit, whereas in fact the Irish direction of travel is the opposite of that in England – AWAY from charges, not towards them. (And of course, Scotland is economically a far stronger country than Ireland anyway.)
But there’s no room for niceties like truth when you’re the No campaign, the polls are a little tighter than you’d like and more and more Labour grandees and voters alike are moving towards Yes. Dignity and integrity go out of the window, and the scare stories get ramped up to 11. Kezia Dugdale’s combination of complacency, arrogance and bare-faced mendacity is sadly the norm for modern Labour, not the exception.