This week's newsletter extracts are from the Sunday National's chief political correspondent Judith Duffy. The Wee Ginger Dug will return next week.

IT’S the longest strike in NHS history. Six days of walkouts by junior doctors which mean thousands of outpatient appointments have been cancelled for people who have already waited “a very, very” long time.

Health bosses have warned the impact will mean plans to attack the backlog of waiting lists have been “decimated”.

If this was happening in Scotland, just imagine the furore from opposition politicians and the calls for ministers to resign over it. The deluge of angry headlines for Humza Yousaf and Michael Matheson to go would be inescapable.

In England, where the strikes are taking place, it appears there are hardly any calls for the axing of UK Health Secretary Victoria Atkins (below).

The National: Health Secretary Victoria Atkins talks to the media outside the BBC Broadcasting House in London, after appearing on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. Picture date: Sunday December 3, 2023 (Victoria Jones/PA)

True, she’s only been in the job for a matter of weeks. But both she and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seem to have largely escaped the blame game – for now, anyway.

England is not the only part of the UK being affected – in Wales, junior doctors are due to take part in strikes in January, while in Northern Ireland they are being balloted over action.

READ MORE: BMA Scotland leader calls for Scottish Highlands medical school

Meanwhile, Scotland can breathe a huge sigh of relief that the strikes have been averted. That happened back in August after a pay deal was reached which equated to a 17.5% pay increase over two years for junior doctors.

The example of Scotland shows it is possible to reach an agreement – if the will is there.

Hugh Pearson, deputy chair of BMA Scotland, pointed out the contrast when he wrote on Twitter/X: “In Scotland there has not been a single day of industrial action from junior doctors.

“No appointments have been cancelled.

“Hospitals have not had to fork out over £2 billion to cover for strike action.

“The continuing industrial action in England is a political choice.”

The National: The Health Secretary said last week his sons racked up the bill watching football (Jane Barlow/PA)

The actions of the Scottish Government – including First Minister Humza Yousaf and Health Secretary Michael Matheson (above) – deserve to be applauded when it comes to these successful negotiations over pay.

That’s not of course to say that everything is rosy with the NHS in Scotland – far from it.

READ MORE: HMRC doesn't know how many Scotland Office staff work in Edinburgh hub

But it’s clear there’s been a concerted effort to sit down with the unions to try to find a solution – something which the UK Government could learn from.

Is that a message we’re likely to hear when Holyrood returns from the festive break? Hardly.

This time last year, I interviewed the chair of BMA Scotland Dr Iain Kennedy (below) at a time of intense pressure on A&E departments, when opposition politicians were making repeated calls for the resignation of Yousaf, then health secretary.

The National:

One of the most surprising things to hear was the doctors’ leader didn’t back those calls, saying that it wouldn’t offer any solutions to the crisis.

The views of those working on the ground came in sharp contrast to the noise coming from those hoping to score political points.

Kennedy also said there was a need for a “depoliticised” debate about the NHS.

That’s something that’s hard to imagine happening in this current climate.

Both Yousaf and Matheson previously offered to the UK Government to mediate in the junior doctor strike negotiations, which has not been taken up.

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Can you imagine the outcry if it was the other way round – if Scotland had dared to refused help from the “broad shoulders” of the UK?

The junior doctors’ strike in England certainly sheds some interesting light on differing approaches to the politics of the NHS north and south of the Border.

But at the end of the day, what must not be forgotten is that it is patients, not politics, which should be at the heart of it all.