Sutherland: remember him?
Half a century ago I had a series of wonderfully happy working holidays in Sutherland, that most beautiful part of north-west Scotland. The name always brings back memories, so when I spotted the obituary of Lord Sutherland of Roundwood who died in late February, even though I didn’t recognise the name, I started reading just for nostalgia.
I soon realised, however, that this sadly missed peer was known to me by his pre-ennoblement title of Sir Stuart Sutherland. Now, does that ring bells? It should do, since 20 years ago Sir Stuart was appointed to head a Royal Commission on the funding of long term care.
The commission met the requirement of the government of the day to report within a year, but neither this almost unprecedented speed for the consideration of such a complicated issue, nor the report’s clever title “With Respect to Old Age”, did it much good. Though the then newly devolved Scottish Government substantially implemented the proposal for free personal and nursing care, for the rest of the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown swiftly rejected the idea.
As we await the current Government’s promised thoughts on this evergreen topic, we inevitably look back on the series of worthy bodies which have come up with plans on the funding of the long term care of older people only to see them unceremoniously pigeon-holed. The historic county of Sutherland has been reduced to the status of a mere district; Sir Stuart’s fine report is now available only through the National Archives. Sobering!
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