Scots could miss out on international healthcare after SNP refuses to agree to post-Brexit Bill

·3-min read
Sajid Javid in Downing Street - PA
Sajid Javid in Downing Street - PA

The SNP has been accused of endangering Scots abroad after refusing to agree to a post-Brexit Bill to introduce reciprocal healthcare with foreign countries for holidaymakers.

The Health and Care Bill gives Sajid Javid, the UK Health Secretary, powers to strike agreements with countries outside Europe allowing their respective citizens to access each other's healthcare systems.

In addition, the Bill would allow Mr Javid to make "discretionary payments" to foreign countries for healthcare not covered under the deal where he considers there are "exceptional circumstances."

Mr Javid sought legislative consent from the Scottish Government as the Bill impinges on devolved health matters but ministers have refused to provide it as they do not have a veto over the measures that are brought forward.

In a memorandum lodged at Holyrood, the Scottish Government said Green and SNP "ministers should not only be consulted, but should be required to consent before regulations are made in such circumstances."

The memo also claimed the Bill would give the UK Government "unacceptable" powers to make regulations that impose duties on Scottish ministers and NHS boards.

If Scottish ministers refuse to back down in the row, Whitehall insiders told the Telegraph that the UK Government may be forced to remove Scotland from the scope of the Bill.

This would mean English travellers would be entitled to healthcare in foreign countries outside Europe where there is a reciprocal agreement, but Scots would not.

A UK Government source said: "This Bill is clearly in the interests of Scots travelling or based abroad. It is staggering that the SNP Scottish Government are more interested in trying to generate a constitutional row than ensuring the safety of Scots abroad."

Javid could press ahead 

Alternatively, they said Mr Javid could press ahead with the Bill covering Scotland despite Holyrood not having passed a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM).

They claimed the Scottish Government's stance was particularly confusing as it supported an LCM motion for a similar measure covering reciprocal healthcare agreements with European countries.

The memorandum tabled at Holyrood states that the UK Government has declined Scottish ministers' request for a veto over any regulations brought forward under the Bill.

Instead UK ministers want a "memorandum of understanding, agreed at ministerial level by all four nations" to give the devolved administrations "influence" over the regulations.

However, it said the Scottish Government "stands firm in the view that the consent of Scottish Ministers must be obtained" where measures are introduced "that impinge on devolved competence."

Watch: UK delays post-Brexit border checks on EU imports again, citing supply chain issues

Advertisement row 

The Scottish Government also objected to several other clauses in the Bill, including a plan to introduce restrictions on online adverts for "less healthy food or drink" products.

UK ministers argued that they did not need to seek the consent of the SNP-Green coalition as online advertising is a reserved policy area.

But the memorandum said the purpose of the plan was to reduce consumption of fatty and salty foods to protect public health and the latter was "a devolved matter". On this basis, it said UK ministers needed an LCM from Holyrood.

It concluded that SNP and Green ministers "may" recommend MSPs give consent to the Bill if the UK Government tabled "satisfactory amendments."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "As a responsible Government, we worked closely with the UK Government to ensure the continuation of reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU following Brexit.

“We are determined to ensure Scots continue to benefit from such care abroad and have recommended that the Scottish Parliament withhold consent on this legislation while we work to resolve outstanding concerns with some simple fixes that would not materially affect the proposals in the Bill, but would respect devolution."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting