Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is under pressure to “call off the cuts” as he prepares to face MSPs over the mounting crisis in the ambulance service.
The Scottish Conservatives highlighted a £15.35 million efficiency savings target at the Scottish Ambulance Service this year, as the opposition party demanded that the focus of paramedics be “on saving lives, not saving cash”.
Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers have faced calls to address the nation as concern grows about the ability of 999 crews to respond to emergencies.
The Tories previously accused the government of putting up a “wall of silence”, despite public alarm at a string of tragic cases involving patients who were not reached on time.
Mr Yousaf is expected to give a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday to set out the latest position, including calling in the Army.
Ms Sturgeon is due to provide an update on the pandemic response at Holyrood, where she will face tough questions over the handling of the health service.
The statements will follow publication of the latest official statistics on waiting times for treatment, again shining a light on how the crisis is affecting people all over the country,
On Monday, Mr Yousaf said there was still “further authorisation processes” to go through before the military could step in.
He said: “The UK Government would have to authorise it and they are being absolutely constructive and helpful in that regard.”
He added: “Everybody is working at a rapid pace.
“I’m making a statement to parliament tomorrow so I’d be hopeful to be able to give further details then.”
The health secretary said the Scottish Government had committed “significant investment” in the ambulance service of £20 million.
‘Call off the cuts’
However, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, called for the abandonment of efficiency targets in the ambulance service.
“The focus of the SNP government right now must be on saving lives, not saving cash,” he said.
“Despite the heroic efforts of frontline staff, we have already seen too many patients let down by a government without a real plan and systemic failures in Scotland’s NHS that are now spiralling out of control.
“Our ambulance service should not be expected to devote energy to finding efficiency savings when it’s at breaking point. And Scotland’s NHS is in crisis, even if Humza Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon won’t admit it.
“So call off the cuts now and let’s focus on solutions.”
He added: “You don’t try to fix the roof in the middle of a storm and the health secretary has said himself that Scotland’s NHS is facing a ‘perfect storm’ right now.
“I am sure that the SNP government will try to justify these stealth cuts – these ‘efficiency savings’ – with PR friendly excuses.
“But we need substance now, not spin. Humza Yousaf cannot credibly claim that the ambulance service should be focused on finding ways to cut back in the middle of a crisis.”
The Sunday Post reported the Scottish Government had been urged to use army soldiers to run field hospitals to help solve the ongoing crisis.
The delays have been blamed on queues of ambulances being forced to wait outside hospitals due to Covid restrictions inside and stretched A&E teams.