It appears that the policy significance of the North Channel cannot be over-estimated. During Prime Minister's questions last week David Cameron said the ring-fencing of the health budget was enabling the Coalition government to improve health services:
"Today we are announcing a new cancer plan that aims to save another 5,000 lives every year by the end of the current Parliament. This is all about the early diagnosis that we need in the NHS, but I must tell the hon. Gentleman that we would not be able to do it if we had not, as a coalition Government, made the right decision to protect NHS spending-a decision completely opposed by the Labour party."
The equivalent policy of protecting the health budget lines has been instituted in Northern Ireland yet according to the Health minister here this will cause significant deterioration of the Health Service (and accepted by some of the media even when McGimpsey persists in the clear misrepresentation of the DHSSPS budget being the same as the DoH budget). How can the same policy have such radically different outcomes?
There is also the broader question of who is setting the policy tune for the UUP on this. The hundreds of millions more McGimpsey wants has to come from somewhere - more taxes, cuts elsewhere (tuition fees for example) or is it happy to continue with its multiple approaches of the past few months?