Earth, Wind and Fire famously sang “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” and for Humza Yousaf, Tuesday September 21 2021 is a day which will long live in his memory, for all the wrong reasons.
Things did not start well this week for the Health Secretary, after being made to apologise before he’d even begun after “inadvertently” leaking parts of his ambulance service crisis statement to a Scottish newspaper — holding Parliament in contempt by doing so, according to the opposition.
Fortunately he was allowed to address Parliament, but was warned by Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone the seriousness of his error and told in no uncertain terms his right to address parliament with a statement before answering questions could be removed in future, should it happen again.
Pandemic exposed roots
Things have become so difficult for the country’s beleaguered ambulance service — now at its highest self-declared stress level — that the army, firefighters, taxi drivers and the British Red Cross have been drafted in to try and help pick-up the pieces.
Scotland’s Ambulance Service has warned for years of staff shortages, high stress levels, fatigue, burn-out, long-term absence and a reliance on student paramedics — the pandemic only really exposing the rotten roots of an agency which has been in crisis, underfunded and understaffed, for some time.
Armed forces personnel have now been drafted in, with Mr Yousaf announcing 88 will be deployed as ambulance drivers. As too have firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and taxi drivers — the latter only, Mr Yousaf insisted, in “non-emergency” situations.
The British Red Cross, so used to helping countries afflicted with war, disease, famine and natural disaster, will now come to our aid.
A bit of politics too surrounding official army numbers, with the UK Government claiming around 114 personnel “including drivers and support staff” will be assisting the SAS. A further 111 will return to mobile testing sites, in a similar capacity to how they operated last year.
So the UK Government says 225 soldiers are to be brought in, the Scottish Government 100. Good to know that when crisis grips, the spin machines of Holyrood and Westminster are greased and willing.
A most difficult winter
Mr Yousaf announced during his speech this winter was shaping up to be one of “the most difficult our health and social services have ever faced”.
The same could be, and usually is, said every year. Of course, this winter is the first to occur the other side of a pandemic.
A winter plan is needed for all health professionals, volunteers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and now it seems taxi drivers too — our covid heroes can ill afford to wait for its usual publication date of October/November.
With the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, Brexit, food shortages, gas and power worries, and climate change, it is imperative our Government does not have as bad day at the office as it seems to have had on Tuesday.