Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard MSP today continued to set out his central agenda of abolishing poverty strong criticism of Scotland’s health inequalities and a ‘postcode-driven life-expectancy.’ He promised to make the problem a national priority, with tough new targets and a Cabinet-level champion.
In the last two days Mr Leonard has announced bold measures to strengthen the living wage and to re-empower local councils as part of his anti-poverty mission.
Announcing his latest initiative in the fight to eliminate Scotland’s poverty, Mr Leonard said:
“My overriding mission to abolish poverty will include tackling health inequalities and making that an explicit Scottish government priority.
“The SNP Scottish Government has discussed health inequalities but for all that has done nothing to improve this unacceptable state of affairs. Poverty and inequality, which have increased under the SNP, are what cause the shocking postcode-driven life expectancy that mars our society.
“Life-expectancy in Scotland is amongst the worst in Europe, whilst differentials in life-expectancy and healthy life-expectancy - meaning the number of years you can live before being afflicted by ill-health - are stark. In 2015 the Scottish Parliament Health Committee said:
‘A boy born in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, can expect to live until he is 82, yet for a boy born only 8 miles away in Calton in the East End of Glasgow life expectancy may be as low as 54 years, a difference of 28 years or almost half as long again as his whole life’
“Vital though it is the NHS by itself can’t resolve the harmful failure that this Health Committee statement demonstrates. Tackling health inequalities requires that we have to use all the levers of power at our disposal to tackling this national challenge. This is one of the reasons why I have made the fight against poverty central to the mission that my leadership would stand for. I will improve and increase housing, put in place rent controls, invest in our people and communities, increase pay at work, create work, protect our most vulnerable people, re-empower local government and increase investment in our local services and using the powers of the Scottish Parliament. I will reverse the decline of our public services: including investing in our crisis ridden mental health services, particularly for our young people.
“We must never forget that health inequalities are as a result of political and economic decision-making and the way society is currently organised. But we should also remember that how we organise society in the future can help eliminate inequalities. Accepting inequality is a political choice. I will never accept inequality as natural and will always work to eliminate poverty and inequality and its consequence of health inequality.
“To make tackling health inequalities a national priority I will introduce the following measures.
• I will create national targets for reducing health inequalities.
• I will create a cross-portfolio Cabinet Secretary for Health Equity.
• I will create statutory guidance that ensures better and more effective co-ordination of activity between government, local authorities, health boards and communities that ensures tackling health inequalities is their first priority.
• I will ensure a health inequality impact assessment is undertaken on every single policy proposal put forward by every public authority; including the Government.
• I will review and improve where public funds are allocated to make sure more resources go to where they are needed most, based on socio-economic circumstances of communities.
• I will charge Scotland’s special health board - National Services Scotland, Health Scotland - to provide evidence, data, evaluation and implementation support for equity measures that will help identify where allocation of resources is needed most.”