The SNP have announced health and care workers in Scotland will be given a £500 payment as a “thank you” for their work during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nicola Sturgeon announced the one-off payment will be given to all full-time NHS and adult social care staff, with a proportional share for part- time staff.
The First Minister also announced that £100 grants will be given to low-income families who may struggle over the winter and will be made before Christmas helping households: “pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry”.
In her speech at the SNP Conference Sturgeon said: “There are no strings attached. Of course a payment like this can never come close to expressing our full admiration for those who have cared for us so heroically.
“But to our health and care workers, it is a demonstration of what collectively owe you- and a heartfelt thank your for the sacrifices you have made.”
She said appreciation must be “shown in a more tangible way” through the payment which will be completed before the end of the current financial year.
However, some NHS workers have viewed the Scottish Parliament ‘thank you gift’ as a nice gift. Brig spoke to a number of workers, al of whom wished to remain anonymous, many were hopeful it would boost morale but did think it was a: “shrewd political move.”
Sturgeon has also urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to use the UK government’s powers to make sure the payments are tax-free. However, the Scottish Conservatives said making such a plea was designed to “stoke up division”
Leader Douglas Ross called on the First Minister to top-up the payment immediately after the Treasury said it was down to ministers at Holyrood to “gross up the payment if it wishes.”
Ross also called on Sturgeon: “… stop playing politics with the pandemic.”
The SNP’s payment proposal has also been criticised by independent research unit, the Fraser of Allander economic institute, which said exempting any bonuses was: “not widely regarded as a good use of tax policy regardless of which government has the powers to do it.”
SNP MP Alyn Smith, MP for Stirling, said the Scottish Government would: “work within the limits of devolution” if the Treasury would not have a rethink.
He told the BBC’s Politics Live Programme: “The NHS staff have been having a dreadful time and we have all been on relying on them this year. We think a £500 payment is entirely appropriate.
“Other people have been let down and need looked after too. But we think NHS workers are in a special category and to tax that is just a poor show.
“Clapping carers and clapping the NHS is all very nice but we think they fully deserve some money and the UK government shouldn’t tax these payments.”
Smith also said he opposed calls for the Scottish government to simply top-up the payment: “We don’t want to be paying tax to the UK government when the UK government could just forego it.”
However, Scottish Conservatives Ross said: “Why is it that the SNP feel the need to take a £500 NHS ‘thank you’ payment and stoke up division with such a clearly political move, all to provoke a fight with the UK government?
“The SNP are pushing for indyref2 in the middle of a pandemic and creating a political bunfight out of thin air.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also criticised the SNP’s stance saying it was: “disappointing that workers had to wait months for this payment.
“SNP ministers should show more respect to NHS and care workers.
“They should get them the money they believe should be paid and not use them as a battering ram on the constitution.”
The £500 bonus is expected to be paid to around 300,000 doctors, nurses, porters, care home and hospice staff, and other frontline health workers.
Our anonymous source, who have all been working hard throughout the pandemic believed a real appreciation would be a proper investment in the NHS and their staff in the future.
Many believe NHS services have been pushed to breaking point by budget cuts and not enough investment in staff to cope with the increased demand and workload
The sources believes NHS staff would see this long term change and investment as a proper appreciation of their efforts rather than just giving them a handout.
Feature Image Credit: – PA Media