An 83-hour wait in a hospital A&E; four-in-ten patients waiting longer than four hours; 30 ambulances queuing outside a hospital, unable to respond to other emergency calls; staff “leaving shifts in tears” over the standard of care and “a near collapse of performance”, according to an expert at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

If anyone dares to say that Scotland’s NHS is not in a state of crisis or that these are just the usual winter problems, we should be outraged. The danger is that politicians like the embattled Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, will succeed in their efforts to convince us that, while regrettable, this is somehow acceptable, that there is nothing more that ministers can do in the circumstances, that this is the new normal.

Amid calls for his resignation over the abject failure of the SNP’s NHS recovery plan, Matheson spoke of how the “heightened winter pressure” was “not unique to Scotland”. Instead of ‘blame Westminster’, the attempted defence this time was ‘Westminster’s just as bad’, as if that provided any comfort to the legions of patients forced to wait for hours on end in pain and distress.

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