Governments should be judged on their reaction to the challenges facing our National Health Service

Ask people in almost any survey or poll which institution they cherish most dearly in our society and invariably the answer is our National Health Service. And rightly so. Hardworking nurses and doctors are there for us from cradle to grave.

But Scotland’s NHS now faces one of its biggest challenges. It’s not unique, it’s a global phenomenon. We’re living longer. Desensitising this fact for just a second – that essentially means the net cost of care per person throughout their lifetime will inevitably increase.

The success of our NHS and modern medicine in helping us all live for longer – means that each and every one of us costs more.

Governments should be judged on their reaction to this challenge.

It is genuinely bewildering that the Tory Government in Westminster thinks that more slash and burn austerity, cuts to funding and services, and wholesale privatisation of the NHS are their solutions.

The SNP Government in Scotland has meanwhile beefed up resources to weather this change in demographics and make our NHS fit for the future: with record funding, more staff and a special emphasis on making sure we have the capacity to cope with our ageing population.

This week a report on Scotland’s NHS hardly painted it as a bed of roses. The SNP, as the government in Scotland, will take that on the chin and we’ll always look to do better.

Shona Robison, the Health Secretary, was straight out of the blocks to say just that. She’s got the determination to make sure that those changes are made, with the right investment to back it up.

But we shouldn’t be shy about talking about the positives in this week’s report card on Scotland’s NHS – and actually doing so is important in recognising the efforts of the nurses, doctors and all the staff who work so hard to deliver our health services.

Funding up, workforce committed and cuts aren’t what the doctor ordered when it comes to helping the NHS cope with an ageing population focused, patient-satisfaction at an all-time high of 90%, improved patient safety, a strong culture of continuous improvement, consistent policy direction from the Scottish Government, service changes making a positive impact, successful integration of health and social care and recognition of the work and investment to improve GP services. Room for improvement, sure, but also a good record to stand on.

I don’t buy the claim that SNP politicians shouldn’t draw comparisons with services in England. As the Tories follow a different path down south we can point to just how badly they’re getting things wrong and the damage caused by their austerity obsession; I’m proud of what we’re doing to strengthen our truly national health service in Scotland.

A Daily Record investigation this week revealed that the nine council areas in Scotland already enduring the Universal Credit roll out have had to set aside nearly £9 million to sort out the mess made by the Tories’ welfare policies.

That is £9 million diverted from schools, roads and vital local services. And worryingly, this figure only represents a fraction of the price councils may have to pay once the full, devastating impact of the rollout is realised across Scotland.

Universal Credit is quickly becoming Theresa May’s poll-tax moment, and it should be a deep source of shame for Ruth Davidson that she and her Scottish Tories are backing it.