Over the next few years, there will be much debate about Scotland's case for Independence, however, insofar as the care sector is concerned, Scotland is already enjoying a degree of independence for its care for the elderly. It is well known that every person above 65 years of age in Scotland is entitled to 'Free Personal Care', this where around 50% of cost for care in residential establishments is paid by the government, regardless of the wealth of the resident.

On 15th February 2012, Scottish Care Members, a group comprising the majority of care home operators in Scotland, voted to accept the 2.75% fee increase offer from the Scottish Government. This was a result of fruitful discussions between Scottish Care and COSLA (the representative voice of Scottish local government and of all 32 Scottish Councils). The fee increase will be effective from April 2012.

Indeed, fees in Scotland have grown by over 75% over the last eight years although more recently, only marginally at around 2% in 2010 with no rise seen in 2011. Fees at present are generally £550 and £474 per resident, per week, for nursing and residential care respectively. The increase is welcomed by operators as many have seen their margins squeezed due to inflation; rising wage costs and overheads. With inflation predicted to fall to around 2% by the end of 2012 coupled with less than anticipated National Minimum Wage increase at the forthcoming budget, this suggests the fee increase may have a positive impact on the values of care homes in Scotland. However, on the downside, it is probable it may just help to sustain valuations due to the reduction in profit levels which have been apparent over the last year or so.

Scotland also enjoys one of the highest occupancy levels in the UK. Research undertaken by Walton Healthcare Property Consultants Ltd shows in council areas such as North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, average occupancy levels are above 90% in nursing care establishments with much higher levels being achieved in more modern, purpose built facilities. The majority of the homes are in areas where the operators are only in a position to command local authority fee levels. This demonstrates that in terms of care for is elderly, Scotland's care homes have not been as adversely affected by public sector cuts than their English counterparts which witnessed fee levels frozen (or in some cases cut) and falling occupancy levels for care homes in similar locations.

The Scottish Government appears to be committed to its care for the elderly and it will be interesting to if this dominates the SNP's campaign for an Independent Scotland over the coming years.