A FORMER SNP health secretary has called for Nicola Sturgeon’s flagship National Care Service to be scrapped. 

Alex Neil said the plans were “nonsensical” and wouldn’t “address the urgent changes needed.”

His comment came as Social Care minister Kevin Stewart defended the draft legislation to establish the service, saying there was no need to “pause” the legislation despite the pleas from unions and councils. 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf introduced the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill in June promising to “end the ‘postcode lottery’ of care.”

The legislation - which is currently making its way through Holyrood -  will see the government set up ‘care boards’ directly accountable to the Scottish Ministers who will take on functions and staff that are currently managed and run by local authorities and health boards.

It has been described as the most significant reform to public services since the creation of the NHS.

Criticism of the Bill has been mounting in recent weeks.

Recently, the parliament’s finance committee have been picking away at the proposals following a damning analysis from Audit Scotland questioning the lack of detail in the financial memorandum, published alongside the Bill.

The public sector spending watchdog warned that pensions, VAT changes, changes to capital investment costs and health board transition costs could lead to the overall budget skyrocketing.

They warned it could eventually cost the taxpayer £1.3bn. 

Mr Stewart promised that more detail on finance was coming. 

He said the process of “co-designing” the legislation with other organisations meant it was not possible to give an idea of the cost. 

The minister told MSPs: “If we were to make assumptions on some of these issues at this moment in time, we would probably rightly be accused of having already made our minds up around about certain aspects of what we want to do as we move forward.

“And that’s not what we’re about, this co-design is not lip service.”

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said parliamentarians currently did not have enough information in order to properly scrutinise the government’s plans.

She asked: “Do you accept that there is a cause to pause this until there is more detail than is before us just now?”

Mr Stewart said he did not, adding: “What some other folk want at the moment is detail around aspects of the costs in terms of delivery of services.”

He continued: “It would be wrong to make those assumptions around those costs, because the people involved in the co-design would say they have already made their minds up about how they are going to progress with this, because they have attached a financial cost to this already.”

He said the government was in conversations with researchers at the Fraser of Allander Institute, while Cosla had made assumptions about the costs of the changes which he did not recognise.

Ms Smith said the financial memorandum associated with the bill was the “weakest” she had ever seen in Parliament.

Shortly after the session, Mr Neil, who served as health minister under both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter to call for an end to the policy.

He tweeted: “It should be scrapped as its nonsensical and doesn’t address the urgent changes needed, especially a significant improvement in the employment terms and conditions of social care workers.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the committee needed to reject the Bill as it stood rather than hand ministers a “blank cheque.”

“The Scottish Government want to set up a billion-pound bureaucracy and squeeze out local control of care services but they are totally adrift on both the detail and the costs.

“SNP figures past and present are getting cold feet about this legislation. Parliament should not be signing blank cheques for bad bills.

“What the social care sector needs is urgent measures to boost the pay and conditions of staff.

"The finance committee should reject the back of a fag packet calculations being put forward by the government and send them home to think again.”

Meanwhile, Derek Feeley, the chair of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, whose report ultimately led to the government's legislation told MSPs on Holyrood's health committee that there were “huge opportunities” in the Bill.

He said that much of what was "groundbreaking" in the legislation already exists.

"The problem we have is implementation. What we haven't been able to do is turn those ground-breaking ideas into something every single citizen in Scotland could count on

"That is the missing ingredient."

He added: "If we could get some of those groundbreaking initiatives implemented at full national scale, Scotland would be way beyond what other countries aaspire to."

SNP MSP Evelyn Tweed said her party was "determined to make sure these are realised.

“We know that this is a huge task for everyone involved in its creation but we must always focus on the fact that the benefits of achieving this, and getting it right, are massive and so it is important we keep progressing the Bill with care, compassion and the necessary sense of urgency to deliver a service that best serves Scotland," she said.