UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has indicated military support to the NHS in Scotland can’t last indefinitely and will not be deployed to make up for “policy failing”.

The Scottish Government responded by saying the same pressures are being felt by the health service across the UK and that it only requests military assistance in “extreme circumstances”.

The Army has been sent in to help health services across the country and other parts of the UK amid high levels of Covid cases and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Servicemen and women are currently assisting the Scottish Ambulance Service, after reports of long delays including one where a patient died in Glasgow last month during a 40-hour wait. Combat medics are also working in some Scottish hospitals including Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw in NHS Lanarkshire.

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Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association in London, Wallace was asked about requests for military assistance from Scottish Government during the pandemic in the context of tensions between both governments and whether he’d sensed any “ideological barriers” on the Scottish Government’s part to asking for such assistance.

He said he did not get a sense of any “ideology” when the Scottish Government was asking for the help, though he thought there was “a bit of resistance” about publicising the work the military were doing in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon might be SNP but if people in Scotland need the support of defence, they’ll get it. That’s it,” Wallace said. “I didn’t get a sense of any particular ideology. I think there was a bit of resistance to publicising they were doing it.

“But people have a right, they all pay our taxes, they all pay us. For me, there’s no qualms about it and I’m glad we can help.”

He added: “The danger is, governments get let off the hook when they can’t deliver their own policy and they just break glass in normal times for the armed forces. Our armed forces have a day job, they have lots of other things to do.

“We are still in pandemic space ... the Scottish asked for some combat medics and I agreed to that, the Northern Irish have asked for some combat medics and the Welsh have asked for some ambulance drivers, and I’ve agreed to that because we are all facing the follow-on fallout consequences of the pandemic.

“But fast forward a few years, you’re going to have to ask the fire brigades union. We’re not there for governments where they make a policy failing, to just reach for the Armed Forces, wherever they are in the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales. But between now and the next few months, who knows how long the pandemic [will last]. We are here when we’re needed and we will step up for whatever nation in the United Kingdom.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The global pandemic has created some of the most challenging conditions in the history of the NHS and the situation in Scotland is not unique, with pressures being felt by health boards across the UK.

“We only request military assistance in extreme circumstances to support our NHS in a time of need and we are grateful to our Armed Forces for that support.

“We have seen first-hand the positive impact military assistance can have with the Scottish Ambulance Service benefitting from their experience in non-emergency driver roles and support to Mobile Testing Units.

“We continue to work closely with the military to review the need for their assistance and to determine the most appropriate levels of support.”

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The Scottish Government has said it will invest a record £300 million to support the response to winter pressures that will be faced by the health and social care sector.

The military are currently assisting NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders, assisting the ambulance service by providing drivers in non-emergency cases and providing support in Mobile Testing Units

Requests for military assistance from NHS Grampian and NHS Ayrshire and Arran are under urgent consideration.

The Scottish Government is also working with military colleagues in respect of a request for military vaccinators to support the seasonal flu and Covid-19 booster campaign.