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Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"Liberal Democrat health spokesman Keith Raffan has offered his resignation"
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SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon
"The executive is in total disarray"
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Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon
"We have got a delaying tactic built into the system"
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George Lyon, Liberal Democrat
"He gave an unequivocal commitment to delivering proposals"
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Lord Lipsey
"I think there will be tremendous problems for Scotland"
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Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 17:57 GMT
Labour accused of 'con' on elderly care
A home help at work
The care of the elderly is becoming a major issue
Labour has been accused of "conning" the Liberal Democrats over free personal care for the elderly.

The Conservatives and Scottish National Party (SNP) say Labour duped their coalition partners into accepting a deal on elderly care which lacks any commitment to free provision.

Their comments came after Dr Richard Simpson, Labour MSP for Ochil, said the proposals accepted by the Liberal Democrats were "exactly the same" as before.

This is denied by Liberal Democrat leader, Jim Wallace who maintains the Scottish Executive has given "an unequivocal commitment" to free personal care.

It is misleading in the extreme and naive for Mr Wallace to talk about personal care, as Susan Deacon is currently delaying, haggling and redefining this issue to the detriment of Scottish pensioners

Conservative health spokeswoman, Mary Scanlon
The seeds of the latest row were sown on Wednesday when the Scottish Executive stopped short of agreeing to universally free personal care for the elderly.

In a bid to force Labour's hand, the Liberal Democrat's and SNP tabled motions in the Scottish Parliament calling for the full implementation of the Sutherland report.

As Labour stood on the brink of an embarrassing defeat, Minister for Parliament, Tom McCabe announced that the executive would bring forward its plans to look at free personal care.

But although this compromise deal was enough to stop the Liberal Democrats voting against Labour it has not convinced everyone.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Jim Wallace told his MSPs that the statement was an "unequivocal commitment by the executive" towards free personal care, despite the fact that his health spokesman, Keith Raffan resigned over it.

'No firm commitment'

There was further confusion on Saturday when Labour MSP, Dr. Richard Simpson told the Sun newspaper that the executive had merely agreed to look into the cost of free personal care.

These events have prompted the SNP and Conservatives to accuse Labour of conning their coalition partners and misleading the Scottish people.

SNP health spokeswoman, Nicola Sturgeon said: "Richard Simpson's admission confirms that there is still no firm commitment to implement free personal care for all elderly people in need."

The Conservatives also accused Labour and the Liberal Democrats of "misleading" pensioners.

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy wants free care across the UK
Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said: "It is misleading in the extreme and naive for Mr Wallace to talk about personal care, as Susan Deacon is currently delaying, haggling and redefining this issue to the detriment of Scottish pensioners."

Meanwhile, Lib Dem Leader Charles Kennedy has called on the Westminster government to make free personal care for the elderly available across the UK.

He said: "It is indefensible that dementia sufferers are forced to pay for personal care such as help with washing and bathing which cancer patients in hospital get for free.

"Charging for care on the basis of who provides the care and where, rather than on what care is needed, is a recipe for confusion."

But UK Health Minister John Hutton insisted there was no question of Westminster following Holyrood's lead on the issue, alleging thay free personal care would not lead to better services.

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Elderly care
Should the government pay?
See also:

25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Labour caves in over OAP care
25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Warm welcome for care climbdown
25 Jan 01 | Talking Point
Should the old get free care?
25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Executive in OAP care concession
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
Elderly care - minister's statement
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