Published: 12/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5822 Page 4

Consultant leaders and the Scottish Executive have given the strongest indication yet that Scotland could go it alone on the consultant contract.

In a joint statement, the British Medical Association's Scottish consultants committee and the Scottish Executive health department have issued a document intended to clarify 'misconceptions' around the framework, which was negotiated on a UK basis. The issues dealt with include seniority, working times, job plans and pay progression.

The framework, which was published on 12 June, has met some hostility, particularly among junior doctors and some English consultants, but Scottish consultant leaders and the Scottish Executive privately think there is more likely to be a 'yes' vote in Scotland.

If so, this week's statement provides a clear indication that Scotland will try to go it alone.

For the first time, consultants in different parts of the UK would be working under distinct terms and conditions.

An open letter was issued on Tuesday, signed by Dr Peter Terry, chair of the Scottish committee for hospital medical services (SCHMS), and Mark Butler, director of human resources with the Scottish Executive health department. It said consultants should study the framework and the new statement. 'While the SCHMS recommends acceptance, individual consultants must decide for themselves, ' it says.