SNP have short-changed the NHS by £17.6 billion since coming to power

By Lucy Ashton

The SNP have underfunded Scotland’s NHS by a “staggering” £17.6 billion since coming to power, according to analysis of Treasury spending figures by the Scottish Conservatives.

Under the Barnett Formula, which ensures higher government spending per head in Scotland than in England, the Scottish Government receives extra funding as a result of increases in health spending south of the border.

But Scottish Conservative research shows that these so-called ‘consequentials’ have not been passed on fully to the Scottish health service.

Shadow finance and economy secretary Liz Smith described the shortfall as “jaw-dropping” and said it explained many of the problems currently being experienced by Scotland’s crisis-ridden NHS.

Pre-pandemic figures show that from 2008-9 to 2019-20, spending per head on health in Scotland, compared with England, decreased from being 15% to just 3% higher, while overall spending per head in Scotland, compared to England, remained between 17% and 20% higher.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Conservative finance spokesperson Liz Smith (centre) and Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

The data also shows that a lower percentage of public spending is allocated to health in Scotland than in England and that this trend has grown over the time the SNP has been in power.

In 2008-9, 21% of all public spending in Scotland went towards health, whereas the comparative figure in England was 21.6%. In 2019-20, the gap between these figures had grown to 21.7% and 25.2%. By 2021-22 they stood at 25.1% and 27.6% respectively.

As a result from 2008-9 to 2021-22 spending per head on health increased by 77% in Scotland slower than the rise of 86% in England.

The cumulative impact of a lower share of public spending going towards health in Scotland than in England – for the period 2008-9 to 2021-22 – amounts to a whopping £17.6 billion.

Liz Smith said: “These figures show that throughout their decade and a half in power, the SNP have been short-changing Scotland’s NHS on a staggering scale.

“While spending per head last year was 20% higher in Scotland than in England – thanks to the Barnett Formula – health spending was only 9% higher due to the choices made by this SNP Government.

“As a result of this under-funding we have seen £17.6 billion taken away from our NHS and spent elsewhere. That’s a jaw-dropping figure.

“Scotland’s NHS is currently on its knees under the hapless Humza Yousaf, yet many of the problems stem from the chronic shortage of frontline medical staff.

“Had the SNP given our health service its dues over the last 15 years, it would have been properly-resourced, and we might now have sufficient nurses, GPs and specialist doctors to meet the huge demand.

“Don’t forget that for the vast majority of this time Nicola Sturgeon has been either health secretary or First Minister, and so gave this under-investment in health her blessing.

“She has some nerve blaming UK Government funding for the state of Scotland’s NHS when she has chosen to under-fund it in this way. She owes it to over-stretched NHS staff and suffering patients to explain where the money has gone.”:

See the attached data tables for figures used for this:  

Source: HMT, Country and regional analysis, 16 November 2022, link.

NHS under-funding research explained:  

  1. This research shows that the SNP have over their decade and a half in government used funding received from the UK Government, as a result of increased spending on health in England, to fund other priorities.
  1. The Scottish Government receives Barnett Consequentials when funding in England increases. This means that when health spending increases in England, the Scottish Government gets more money in its own budget.
  1. HMT publish a breakdown of public spending in each nation and region of the UK annually. This comparison enables us to compare total spending per head (columns D+E in excel) and spending in specific policy areas, such as health (columns B+C).
  1. The £17.6 billion figure is arrived at by subtracting the percentage share of overall spending per person allocated to health in England from the share in Scotland (column I from Column H).
  1. This percentage figure is then multiplied by the total public spending in Scotland per person (column D) to give the additional funding per person that would have been given to Scotland’s NHS if the Scottish Government had spent the same percentage of total public spending in Scotland on health as the UK Government had in England.
  1. This figure is then multiplied by Scotland’s then population to give the total under-funding in a year (column K).
  1. The years are then added from 2008-9 to 2021-22 to reach the total in the headline (column L, with total in L16).

One comment

  1. So it’s the SNP that’s shortchanged Scotland’s NHS by £17.6 billion over the last five years and not the Conservatives.

    Boris Johnson, Rees Mogg et al looking after us – eh?

    Bad SNP, good Conservatives, we get the message.

    And I see its Humza’s fault too.

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