SNP use election launch to introduce Bill to protect NHS from trade deals

The SNP are expected to announce a Bill to protect the NHS from trade deals with foreign nations, saying it is “not for sale at any price”.

At the launch of the party’s General Election campaign in Edinburgh on Friday, party leader Nicola Sturgeon will say the Bill, to be introduced at Westminster in the next Parliament, will feature in the SNP’s manifesto.

The NHS Protection Bill, according to the party, will ensure the health service is not used as a “bargaining chip” in trade deals.

Ms Sturgeon claims that despite health policy being devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government could still “sell off” the NHS in trade negotiations.

Opposition parties have expressed concern about the possibility of the NHS being opened up to American healthcare companies in a trade deal, after US President Donald Trump said “everything was on the table” during a joint press conference with then prime minister Theresa May.

Since then, the Tories and Mr Trump have said the NHS is not “up for grabs” in any trade deal.

Speaking ahead of the campaign launch, Ms Sturgeon said: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit and to give people in Scotland the chance to choose a better future as an independent country so we never have to worry about our NHS being sold off by a Westminster government.

“The NHS in Scotland is run in Scotland, for Scotland and under the SNP it will always be in public hands. Our NHS is not for sale at any price.

“And while the Scottish Parliament has control of health policy, we cannot currently stop Westminster signing away that protection in a trade deal, or entering agreements that dramatically push up drug prices or risk our public services, including the NHS.

“Boris Johnson has been very clear about his desire for a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump – and no-one should underestimate the threat which that poses.

“So in order to deal with that immediate threat from the Tories’ post-Brexit plans, the SNP will bring forward a Bill that would protect the NHS across the whole of the UK from ever being harmed by a Tory-Trump trade deal.

“Our NHS is there to care for and protect us – now it’s our turn to stand up and protect the NHS.”

The First Minister called on opposition parties to support the Bill.

She said: “All parties say they oppose including the NHS in trade deals – so I challenge every party to today commit to backing this Bill, and stopping the Tories trading our NHS for trade deals with Donald Trump.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jane Barlow / PA Wire.