Today I sent my congratulations to the Holyrood Parliament for finally agreeing to abolish NHS prescription charges. Seven years ago as SSP MSP for the Lothians I introduced a Bill to scrap these charges, believing them to be both an injustice and in clear breach of the promise the NHS made in 1947 to provide care, free at the point of need, to all patients.
In the spring of 2005 the Parliament's Health Committee backed my Bill.
In my letter to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon I welcomed the fact that this 'tax on the sick' is finally history in Scotland. I am particularly delighted for those 60,000 patients who will now get the medicine they need rather than go without because they can't afford to pay. Prescription Charges were introduced in 1951 as a temporary measure, a tax on patients deemed necessary by the Government during an economic crisis and the escalating cost of the war in Korea. Today a promise to patients, broken in Scotland, for more than half a century, is finally kept.
In 2007 I received the acknowledgement from the SNP Government for the work I did in pursuing this proposal. Today I am delighted to reciprocate by passing my compliments to Nicola Sturgeon, the Health Minister, for recognising the wisdom and justice in this proposal and for her determination in implementing it in full. For me it was always more important for the measure to be implemented than to haggle over who finally achieved it. The NHS in Scotland can be proud today, and the country too.