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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Labour unveils nursing bank plan
Nurse - generic
The plan aims to make use of agency nurses
Scottish Labour has promised to set up an NHS nursing bank to try to cut the cost of buying-in staff from private nursing agencies.

However, the Scottish National Party dismissed the plan as a "sticking plaster solution" and repeated its pledge to increase nurses pay by 11%.

On the first day of election campaigning after the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP pledged to place Labour's "appalling record" in government at the heart of its election campaign.

The Conservatives accused Labour of wasting almost half a billion pounds of taxpayers' money in Scotland over the past six years.

Private agencies

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems called on political parties to fight a positive and upbeat election campaign.

Jack McConnell, who is leading Labour's campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections on 1 May, unveiled the nursing bank proposals.

The bank would be administered from the HCI hospital in Clydebank, which is now known as the National Golden Jubilee Hospital.

He said the bank would cut the cost to the health service of hiring staff from private agencies.

HCI hospital Clydebank
The bank would administered from the former HCI hospital

"Rather than pay the private sector for agency staff, it makes much more sense to provide nurses from the NHS to provide cover for absent staff whenever we can," said Mr McConnell.

No figure, even in outline, was given for the number of nurses the new NHS agency is expected to have on its books.

Labour said the cost to the NHS of employing staff from private nursing agencies was now approaching 25m a year.

The SNP said the Labour plan was an admission of failure.

The party published a list of "30 Labour failures" - one for every day of the election campaign.

It said that during Labour's time in office violent crime had risen to its highest level for a decade, school class sizes were too large, NHS waiting lists had increased and waiting times were longer.

Devolved government

Scotland has the worst economic growth rate in Europe, and one in three children live in poverty, the SNP added.

Campaign co-ordinator Nicola Sturgeon said: "After four years of devolved government, these five facts alone deliver a damning verdict on Labour's record."

Scots Tory leader David McLetchie unveiled a dossier which claimed the cost of running Scottish government had gone up by 432m since 1997.

Included in the figure was an increase of 88m in administration costs, a 36.3m rise in civil servant costs and a 298m overspend on the Scottish Parliament building.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "Damning verdict"

Mr McLetchie said only the Conservatives could be trusted to keep public spending under control.

He said: "It's high time Scotland had a government which acted more responsibly with taxpayers' money instead of the tax and waste agenda promoted by all other parties in Scotland.

Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace called on the chiefs of all the other main political parties to fight a positive and upbeat election campaign in the coming weeks.

In a letter sent to party leaders Mr Wallace asked for a rejection of 'bickering' that 'corrodes political debate'.

And the Greens took a wheelie bin along to the Electoral Commission to appeal to people not to throw away their second vote.

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