Once they have decided to do some more feather-bedding, what is more, the Scottish Executive does not seem much inclined to worry too much how the money is actually spent. Nor does it seem that Scotland’s other political parties seem terribly inclined to complain at this largesse: after all to turn your nose up at a freebie would seem terribly churlish.
It has taken the Judges of Scotland’s Court of Session to introduce a brake on this process. In a landmark judgement they have thrown a money wrench into Scotland’s much vaunted scheme for free care of the elderly. Initially introduced in 2002 it was projected to cost £125 million. Now, five years later, it costs £259 million, a figure which, it is said, will keep on rising indefinitely.
The monkey wrench was a ruling that, as a matter of law, Scottish Councils did not have to pay the care costs of some 9100 pensioners in private nursing homes of these so-called self-funders in private care homes, each of whom receives £145 a week from their local council towards personal care costs – at a cost to the taxpayer of £68 million a year. When the legislation was promulgated it was intended to introduce free personal care for all pensioners, regardless of income. Instead, according to Lord Macphail, the “unusually complex” and “ambiguous” legislation did not do that.
The legislation only raised an obligation upon councils to cover the care costs of pensioners living in their own homes, in state-run homes or of pensioners in private care homes who have gone there on the council’s authority. It did not, the Court held, cover elderly people in private homes whose care was arranged by themselves or their families.
This has effectively left the legislation in tatters.
What is so disturbing, however, is that during the hearings into the case the learned judges invited the Scottish Executive to come to court and be represented through an amicus curia in order to explain to the Court its position on how the legislation ought to work. Bearing in mind that £68 million of taxpayer’s money was involved most of would have thought it behoved the Executive to give the Court of Session its assistance.
In a move which will appal most people and infuriate any English Taxpayer who would, if he has to be looted, wish that his money is spent wisely by the Scottish Executive, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Scottish ministers were not a party in this case. It would, therefore, be highly unusual to be represented in a case on which they were not direct participants.”
This is a lot of tosh. Government Departments are routinely represented in England when such matters are at stake and having been invited to assist, is it not just a little discourteous not to attend? I am sure this used to be the case in Scotland which shows how inept the SNP can be.
Doubtless relieved that a whopping £68 million has just come free, the telegenic Ms. Sturgeon announced that there were no plans to revise the legislation to remedy the defect which the Learned Judges had found.
So, the message is: if you have an elderly member of your family, whatever you do, do not do the responsible thing and make arrangements yourself for them to go into care. If you do that you will not be eligible for the £145 per week subvention under the legislation. Instead it would be far better to simply leave them at home and wait for the council to come and sort the matter out. Notwithstanding that the intention was to provide for such care regardless of circumstances, now 9100 people who had taken the responsible step of looking out for themselves are to be penalized for so doing.
And the £68 million thereby saved? A tidy little sum to dispense as a nice electoral bribe somewhere: the SNP must be simply salivating at the thought.
Meanwhile the English Taxpayer will wonder just how much care is taken by the Scottish Parliament concerning the largesse that is provided under the Barnett Formula is actually spent.
And the moral: always let the State take the strain if you can.
No wonder the Flemish want to ditch their expensive and lazy Walloon compatriots with whom they have similar problems and no wonder that English anger continues to rise at this inequitable state of affairs.
A report from The Scotsman is here