National Care Service plans ‘starting to look like another Humza Yousaf disaster’

Scotland’s National Care Service plans are “starting to look like another Humza Yousaf disaster”, Douglas Ross quipped during a heated First Minister’s Questions.

The Scottish government has spent almost £14m over two years on the delayed proposals. This includes more than £2m on consultancy fees.

In a barbed exchange during FMQs on Thursday, the Scottish Tory leader highlighted that Audit Scotland is estimating that the overall cost of the service will be “significantly above” the £1.3bn price tag earlier assessed.

The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee had set a deadline of Friday for more details on the cost of the NCS, but members have been told to expect an update following discussions due to take place over the summer.

Mr Ross called for the plans to be scrapped and accused the first minister of “throwing public money away when frontline social care services are in desperate need of more funding”.

In response, Mr Yousaf said the whole point of the NCS is to “end that postcode lottery of care that we all accept exists right up and down the country”.

Mr Ross said: “This is all starting to look like another Humza Yousaf disaster.

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“The man who couldn’t get the trains to run on time, forced police officers to breaking point, and left our NHS in crisis is now doing his best to throw social care into chaos as well.

“The very last thing our struggling care service needs is an administrative overhaul costing billions of pounds when it’s being starved of cash from the frontline.”

Under the NCS plans, services would be consolidated into a single body, run by regional care boards and ultimately accountable to ministers.

The proposals have been criticised by trade unions, opposition parties at Holyrood and local authorities, which are currently responsible for providing much of adult social care.

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Mr Yousaf was unable to answer how much the plans will cost taxpayers overall and reiterated that the Scottish government is engaging with all those involved to find a level of compromise that will take the legislation forward.

If there are any changes following discussions held over the summer, a revised financial memorandum will be issued.

Mr Yousaf said the plans have been brought forward due to the “extreme challenges” faced caused by workforce issues in the social care sector.

He said: “And, of course, one of the fundamental reasons for that workforce challenge is the hard Brexit imposed upon us by a UK government.

“So, once again, the Scottish government is having to pick up the pieces. Once again, the Scottish government is having to mitigate the woeful decisions made by a cruel Tory government.”

The first minister said his government was “committed” to establishing a National Care Service and highlighted pay uplifts given to workers.

Responding to Mr Ross’s line of questioning, Mr Yousaf hit back: “But I’m hardly going to take – and neither will any ministers in my government – take any lectures on financial literacy from Douglas Ross, who demanded that this government copy Liz Truss’s tax cuts which would have cost the Scottish government £500m and caused economic carnage to our Scottish public finances.”