THE NHS in Scotland would be “hit by hugely damaging cuts” if there is a No vote in the referendum, according to the Deputy First Minister.
Speaking ahead of the Scottish Cabinet’s latest public meeting in Wick this week Nicola Sturgeon said there is a “privatisation agenda” at Westminster.
The former Health Secretary said the Scottish Government is “absolutely committed” to keeping the NHS in the public sector and that many health professionals are “deeply worried” about the future of the service.
The pro-union Better Together campaign said Ms Sturgeon was trying to “scare people into backing her plans”.
The Deputy First Minister said: “The NHS in Scotland is a great national asset which people all across the country depend on and have the deepest admiration and regard for.
“But people should be under no illusion about the threat to the NHS here in Scotland from Westminster’s privatisation agenda.
“Moves to privatise the health service in England began with Labour’s backing of foundation hospitals and have now moved up a gear under the Tories.
“We are absolutely committed to keeping the NHS in public hands here in Scotland - but in the event of a No vote that would not stop our health service being hit by hugely damaging cuts as a knock-on effect of NHS privatisation south of the border.”
Ms Sturgeon’s comments come after a leading breast surgeon, Dr Philippa Whitford, backed a Yes vote in a popular online video.
She said: “In five years, England will not have an NHS and in 10 years, if we vote no, neither will we.
“If we do not vote Yes in September, I will be heartbroken. I have spent 32 years working in the NHS and it is very dear to me.”
But former Labour health minister and surgeon Sam Galbraith believe cross border co-operation between hospitals could be threatened by independence.
He has treatment at both Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow and Newcastle Freeman Hospital for a lung condition.
In an interview with the Daily Record he said: “I was just another British person in Newcastle. There were other Scots folk there and we were all treated the same.
“There were no forms to fill in, no money to be considered. It was all just done because people needed it done. I fear for that under a separate Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon welcomed the comments from Dr Whitford.
“Many of the health professionals working in Scotland’s NHS, who do such an outstanding job, are deeply worried about the future of the health service if we do not take our own future into our own hands,” the Deputy First Minister said.
“Some of those doctors, nurses and others have joined the NHS for Yes group - and just this week we have had a leading surgeon voice her fears about the health service in Scotland if we do not vote Yes.
“Dr Philippa Whitford’s words are a powerful testimony from someone on the very front line of health care in this country that the future of the NHS as we know it can only be fully secured and guaranteed in an independent Scotland.
“The future of the NHS is becoming a key battleground in this referendum campaign, and from now until polling day we will make the case that only a Yes vote can fully protect Scotland health service.”
A Better Together spokesman said:”Just because Nicola Sturgeon’s campaign is falling apart around her ears doesn’t mean that she should try and scare people into backing her plans. This is dreadful stuff.”