IF you fail to plan, you plan to fail, which is why the Scottish Government needs to take drastic action now to avoid a winter health crisis.

Last week the health secretary Humza Yousaf advised people to “think twice” before calling for an ambulance in response to the growing issue around the long ambulance response times.

This week the saga continues with Mr Yousaf calling in the army to support and ease pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service. This half-baked Dad’s Army approach has all the hallmarks of a government that is clearly out of its depth.

Mr Yousaf’s strategy is simply to put a band aid over a gaping wound which will only get worse over time if not properly treated. He also announced that taxis will be used for non-emergency issues but still advises people to call for an ambulance if necessary.

Confused? You're not the only one but the savvy Scottish people will see through this mixed messaging for what it is – a government in crisis that has no plan for the wellbeing and safety of the population.

More worryingly, and I can’t stress this enough and if you are reading this Mr Yousaf please take note; this will only get worse as we enter the winter period when typically the NHS is under more pressure and strain due to the winter flu surge. Compound that with an expected rise in Covid cases and the situation will very quickly become untenable and urgent action must be taken now to avoid things becoming worse.

One could argue that what Scotland’s NHS is experiencing is not unique and the same issues and pressures affect the NHS in England. This is true because both governments have adopted a similar policy and approach to the NHS which has resulted in similar outcomes and issues affecting both. This is what happens when governments don’t take adequate action and spend more time focussing on soundbites and constitutional issues as opposed to getting on with the day job and governing in the best interests of the people they represent.

The NHS is the one issue that transcends party politics and is something we all hold dear, given its unique offer of being able to receive treatment and care for free at the point of use. Right now, though, Scotland’s NHS is on its knees, and this is the worst it has been.

Given what we have been through for the last 18 months with Covid-19 and lockdown, which has illustrated the fragility of life and work, we must do all we can to protect the NHS. Yet we find ourselves in a situation where we are talking about the challenges and issues the NHS will be facing, not in years, not in months, but in a matter of weeks with no clear strategy.

I would find this grossly unacceptable from any government, irrespective of the party occupying the seat of power. If the SNP are too slow to fix our broken NHS, the people of Scotland will look for a party that can deliver for them. This will become a key issue in the next election which, by that point, the SNP will have been in power for nearly 20 years and will have to defend their record. I suspect the country will want change.

You would think that there would be a plan or least the basis of a plan in recognition and preparation for what is just around the corner, which will be more severe given the expected increase in Covid cases but, as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Barrie Cunning is the Managing director of Pentland Communications and a former Scottish Labour Party Parliamentary candidate.