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Sturgeon says military may be asked to help ambulance service cope with demand in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed the Scottish government is considering seeking “targeted military assistance” to ease pressure on the Scottish ambulance service, as Douglas Ross pressed her on crisis-level delays.

At first minister’s questions in the Scottish parliament, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, highlighted a horrific case reported by the Herald’s health correspondent Helen McArdle, where a frail pensioner found collapsed at his home in Glasgow died following a 40-hour wait for an ambulance.

An investigation is now under way, as the family of 65-year-old Gerard Brown said they have been told that the delay cost the their father his life, with the man’s GP – who repeatedly warned 999 call handlers that his status was critical – branding the service as “third world medicine”.

Sturgeon apologised unreservedly for “unacceptable” delays in answering 999 calls and told MSPs that almost 300 additional paramedics and technicians were being recruited. She said the service was currently operating at level 4, its highest level of escalation.

The Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, referred to another incident where 86-year-old Lillian Briggs lay in agony on a hard floor for almost eight hours as she waited for an ambulance after fracturing her hip.

The exchanges came as the health secretary, Humza Yousaf, faced continued criticisms for remarks yesterday, where he said that people should “think twice” before calling an ambulance and only do so if it was “absolutely critical”, as he warned that the NHS was in for ”an extraordinarily difficult winter”.

His remarks were condemned as reckless by opposition parties. Sturgeon defended him this lunchtime, saying that she had seen similar comments from ambulance services across the country in recent days.

Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA


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While Gavin Williamson’s sacking took the limelight, a more seismic shift came last night when the schools minister Nick Gibb announced that his tenure was ending, to the surprise of many.

Gibb was first appointed to the role under Michael Gove in 2010 until he was replaced by David Laws in the coalition government in 2012 – but less than two years later Gibb was back at the DfE and remained there until now.

Nick Gibb

Congratulations to @nadhimzahawi who will do a superb job in building on the reforms of the last ten years. I am sad not to be continuing as Schools Minister. It has been a privilege to play a part in helping improve the life chances of the next generation.

September 15, 2021

While five education secretaries have come and gone in that period Gibb has been the fixed point in England’s school system, pushing for the use of phonics to teach literacy in primary schools and driving the Gove-era emphasis on testing and exams as well as a focus on more academic subjects in secondary schools.

Gibb had become a polarising figure, seen by some in the schools sector as an éminence grise with an outsized influence, especially under Williamson, but narrow-minded in ideological and pedagogical matters.

But among those who favoured more traditional teaching Gibb was seen as a champion of issues such as a “knowledge-rich curriculum”. Most recently he was behind the ongoing attempts to reform initial teaching training, which has been opposed by universities because they stand to lose autonomy in how they train their student teachers.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and a former school head, said of Gibb:

His views on education divide opinion, but there is no doubt about his deep sense of commitment to improving the life chances of children or his sense of certainty in terms of policy.

He has perhaps been a little too certain about some of the government’s reforms, however, which do need revisiting.


The Sutton Trust, which campaigns for social mobility through education, has published an analysis of the educational backgrounds of the new cabinet and it shows a minor move away from the traditional independent school/Oxbridge pipeline. Here are the key figures.

  • 60% of the cabinet attended independent schools, a slight decrease from Boris Johnson’s previous cabinet (65%). This compares to 29% among MPs in the House of Commons.
  • There is a small increase in the proportion of cabinet ministers educated at comprehensives, from 27% in 2020, to 33% today.
  • Of the 30 ministers attending Johnson’s latest cabinet, almost half (46%) went to Oxbridge. This compares with 27% of all Conservative MPs and 18% of Labour MPs.
  • A quarter of cabinet ministers were educated at both independent schools and Oxbridge.

% of cabinet ministers who are privately educated

% of cabinet ministers who are privately educated Photograph: Sutton Trust

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