Why is an NHS trust offering slavery reparations?

As many as one in seven Scots may be languishing on the NHS backlog. As Scottish Labour never tires of reminding voters – especially those who happen to live in the Rutherglen constituency – that means everyone must surely know someone who is waiting months for treatment.

So the decision by NHS Lothian to spend £40 million of taxpayers’ cash on “a programme of reparations” to Jamaica and Africa will raise more than a few eyebrows, especially among Edinburgh residents enduring painful delays for a knee or hip operation.

Why must today’s hard-pressed taxpayers foot the bill for this blatant act of virtue signalling? Hundreds of years ago a surgeon who owned a slave plantation in the Caribbean made a bequest to the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh. Accountants, presumably contracted at great cost, have since been spending a lot of time and effort on calculating how much that bequest is now worth. And we are all to believe, unwaveringly, that the £39.1 million figure they came up with is entirely accurate.

That money will now be used to redress the hospital’s part in “crimes against humanity” which will include making a formal apology, commissioning artwork dedicated to victims of slavery and signing an agreement aimed at improving healthcare in modern day Jamaica. The board’s aim is also to “eliminate systemic discrimination and racism in Scotland”. They do not, however, explain what “systemic” means in this context; much like the popular practice of placing “institutional” in front of “racism”, it is usually used to denote quantity or intensity, rather than a literal reference to formal rules that require reform.

This is a clear example of the grotesque disconnect that exists between those who govern and those who are governed. Have these health bosses even considered for a moment the reaction of voters to the news that vast sums will be paid to make up for the sins of people who died – and whose victims died – hundreds of years ago?

What democratic mandate authorises public bodies to spend money earned and paid by today’s workers on reparations? Which political party included such a commitment in their manifesto? What right does Lothian health board, or any other health authority in the country, have to spend a single penny on activities not directly related to providing health care in the area they cover? When did the public debate about reparations happen?

Slavery was abhorrent. It caused untold misery to millions of innocent people. But the political establishment has been wholly captured by the reparations industry and its self-serving, self-flagellating sycophants. It is easier for public bodies like NHS Lothian to prostrate themselves at the altar of such extreme and fashionable ideologies because they are not democratically elected. They can indulge their middle class consciences and signal their virtue to the “right” kind of audience while never having to fear for their jobs. 

The crime of slavery can never be remedied, least of all via an accountant’s analysis of profit and loss. The reparations industry can never be sated; so long as there is an opportunity for well-paid, publicly-funded activism, there will always be a cause to fight. Slavery finally ended in 1863, but the fight to separate rich as well as poor Britons (and Americans) from their money will continue forever.

The aim is not primarily to provide financial help for the descendants of exploited people. It is to divide, to foment grievance, to ensure that the scars of slavery never fully heal. And the NHS should not capitulate to that agenda. It should get back to the business of treating people.

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