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MARK RADCLIFFE

'Scotland debate shows NHS is of value, not a privatised play area'

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If Scotland votes for independence, who gets Lulu? I know she is very small and hardly any trouble but we should be told.

Surely they can keep John Barrowman, Wet Wet Wet and at least one Proclaimer although rumour has it if you separate the Proclaimers for more than 30 minutes they get very anxious. They’ve said we can have Midge Ure. We’ve said they can have Sheena Easton. We’re getting Gordon Ramsey as part of the agreement that they pay their share of the national debt.

Other important changes include the fact that Glasgow and Edinburgh will no longer be on University Challenge and there would be absolutely no point in listening right to the end of the football results every Saturday on the off chance the man with the posh voice says “Forfar 4, East Fife 5”. It’s the little things we’ll miss. Not all of them obviously. We’ll cope without Jimmy Krankie.

In the aftermath of any “yes” vote, before everyone begins to work out what it means and after Alex Salmond has bought everyone a drink, will we have to go round to Scotland’s house and pick up our CDs? When we do this, will Scotland be round Norway’s house crying and saying “What have I done? I was cross, yes, I said things I shouldn’t have done but… but… she’s gone and I don’t think she’s coming back.” And Norway is wondering if he should tell Scotland that he heard England had asked Luxembourg out.

Now, obviously, it’s none of my business what Scotland does. One the one hand, I can see their point about not wanting to be governed by out-of-touch, self-interested Tories they never vote for. On the other. I don’t like any sort of nationalism, no matter how it’s dressed up.

If this incessant debate has thrown up anything of interest, it has been about values and how feasible it is to do things differently if we choose to.

It seems to me that the NHS, seen through the prism of the independence debate, becomes once again a thing of hope, value and social cohesion rather than an economic burden or playground for privatisation. Paradoxically, this implies we might need the Scots more than they need us.

Free prescriptions and no tuition fees are markers of social investment we in the rest of the UK should aspire to. At the heart of any process of devolution is a seeming desire to assert a different set of values. In this case, those values are apparently around social justice, health and education for all - a reinvestment if you like in the basic tenets of wellbeing for all.

One wonders why such things can only emerge from arguments around national independence. Where is the wider collective voice that demands a return to such basic principles of social investment? We seem - in England at least - to have been hoodwinked into imagining that whatever economic preference the government has must be aligned to an indisputable truth about what is possible. Nonsense of course, but accepted .

We appear to be quite openly privatising the NHS. It’s like a feeding frenzy for opportunists, and the finest institution in the history of the UK is dissolving before our eyes.

If we take anything from the independence debate, I hope it is the realisation that not only can we afford a proper and functioning NHS but also that we would be better off for it. Free prescriptions, dentists, proper staffing levels and a sustained infrastructure - that should be the aim for all of the UK. That would keep people together.

Mark Radcliffe is senior lecturer, and author of Stranger than Kindness. Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe

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Readers' comments (1)

  • tinkerbell

    Great day for democracy. Think the Scots have shown passion and that they have a fire in their belly by getting out and voting for whatever they believe. Good example of how to fight for democracy. Well done Scotland.

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