THE Scottish Tories have been branded “pathetic” after they claimed that the fault for nursing strikes across the UK “lies squarely at the feet of Humza Yousaf and the SNP”.

Douglas Ross’s party hit out at the Scottish Government after Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members voted to take industrial action for the first time in the trade union’s 106-year history.

Strikes are expected to be held before the end of the year at some of the UK’s biggest hospitals, including Guy’s and St Thomas’ at Westminster, the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, University Hospital Wales, and Belfast’s Royal Victoria.

However, in a statement branded “woeful grandstanding”, the Scottish Tories claimed that the blame for the UK-wide action was the SNP’s.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf: UK ‘should step in with funding to prevent NHS strikes’

Tory MSP Sandesh Gulhane said: “The Scottish public will be dismayed and deeply worried to hear that our vital NHS nurses feel they have no option but to go on strike.

“Years of failed SNP workforce planning have piled the pressure on our heroic nursing staff and, with more than 6000 nursing vacancies in Scotland right now, they are understandably at breaking point.

“With our NHS already on the brink of collapse and winter looming, I am deeply concerned for the health and welfare of patients over these strike days. It’s clear that lives could be on the line as a result of this action and the fault lies squarely at the feet of Humza Yousaf and the SNP.”

The National: Sandesh Gulhane speaking in Holyrood

Gulhane (above) added: “People across the UK are struggling with the global cost-of-living crisis, but it’s clear that nurses in Scotland feel disrespected and ignored by Humza Yousaf – not surprising after the Health Secretary shockingly dismissed a nurse who challenged him last month as ‘patronising’.”

The Tory’s reference was to an exchange between the Health Secretary and RCN members outside the SNP conference in October. After one protester told Yousaf: “Hearing and listening are two different things,” he replied: “I know that. Let’s not patronise each other.”

In response to the Conservative’s attack, registered nurse and SNP MSP Emma Harper told The National it was “pathetic”.

Both the Scottish and Welsh Government’s have pointed to the “Tory-made cost-of-living” crisis as a key reason for the nurses’ strike action, and called on the Conservative administration in London to step up.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour push back on Keir Starmer's 'too many overseas workers in NHS' claim

South Scotland MSP Harper said: "It is pathetic and, more importantly, very unhelpful for the Tories to try to score political points in an incredibly serious UK-wide situation – and this woeful grandstanding only serves to highlight exactly why it's been over half a century since people across Scotland have voted for them to run their government.

"Nurses are understandably fighting for a fair pay deal for the invaluable work they do every day. The Scottish Government has gone as far as it can within a fixed devolved budget – putting a record high pay offer on the table, £800 higher than was offered to nurses in England and Wales.

"If the Scottish Tories are serious about the increases they are asking for – in the face of a Tory-made cost-of-living crisis and a deeply damaging Brexit that has impacted on staff numbers – they should join the SNP in calling for the UK Government to provide devolved governments with the additional funding needed to meet the current cost pressures."

Speaking to The National on Wednesday, Health Secretary Yousaf said funding had already been reallocated from other areas such as primary care, mental health and social care to put a record pay deal on the table and there is “no more money in the coffers”.

“There is no doubt about it, my health budget is worth £650m less just due to inflation,” he went on.

“Add to that the fact the pay offer we are having to make is way in excess of what we budgeted for, because understandably so our unions are asking for near inflation type of pay deals, again because of the UK Government’s mismanagement of the economy.

“I would urge them, as I did earlier this week when I spoke to [UK Health Secretary] Steve Barclay, to put their hand in their pocket.

“This is not just a request coming from Scotland – I know the Welsh Health Minister and the Welsh First Minister have made the same request for the UK Government to put some more money on the table to prevent a UK-wide strike.”

The National: Rishi Sunak

The devolved leaders are due to meet with Rishi Sunak (above) in Blackpool on Thursday at the British-Irish summit. The Welsh government said it would be pushing the prime minister on “the additional actions that are required to help people deal with the very difficult challenges over the winter period”.

On Wednesday, Welsh Health minister Eluned Morgan told the Senedd: “We recognise why so many nurses have voted the way that they have, due, in no doubt, to the Tory-inflicted cost-of-living crisis, and also, the increased work pressures that many nurses are facing.

“And can I be clear that we agree that nurses should be fairly rewarded for their important work, but there are limits as to how far we can go to address these concerns in Wales without additional funding from the Conservative Government at the UK level.”