THREE out of five doctors in Scotland plan to vote against independence in next month’s referendum, a survey has suggested.
Research by the BMJ found 60% of medics who were questioned on the issue in a snapshot survey by the BMA said they would be voting to keep Scotland in the UK.
A third (33%) of the 311 doctors who took part in the research plan to vote for independence, with 6% undecided and 1% not planning on voting.
Dr Willie Wilson, of the pro-independence group NHS for Yes, said the BMJ research was based on a small sample size and increasing numbers of health workers believe Scotland should leave the UK in order to protect the health service.
Of the 2,297 doctors in Scotland the BMJ survey was sent to, only 14% responded, including 148 hospital doctors and 125 GPs.
Of the 185 doctors intending to vote No on September 18, 91% said the most influential factor was a belief that the economy could suffer under independence, while 72% said their decision was influenced by a belief that medical research would suffer.
Among the 104 doctors planning to vote to leave the UK, 86% said they felt this would result in better health and social care for people north of the border, with 84% citing the desire for Scotland to have more autonomy over healthcare and how this is financed as a factor in their decision.
Dr Wilson said: “This is a small sample and our experience, having talked to a very much larger number of people in the medical and healthcare professions, is the opposite.
“That’s because increasing numbers of people - both those who work in the NHS as well as those who depend on it - know that only a Yes vote can protect our public health service from the impact of Westminster budget cuts and privatisation which is running rampant in the NHS in England.”
But Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, speaking on behalf of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, said: “This survey shows that people working in our NHS know that the best way to protect our health service is to stay part of the UK.”
She added: “By pooling our resources across the UK, Scotland’s NHS gets almost 10% more spending per head of population than in England. That means that yearly health spending is around £200 per person higher than the UK average. This is a clear positive benefit of staying in the UK.”
Fellow Labour MSP Neil Findlay hit out at SNP “attempts at scaremongering on the future of the NHS”, adding: “They tried to flat out lie to the people of Scotland that their health service would be worse off if there was a vote to stay in the UK and they have been called out on this by doctors on the coalface.”
Mr Findlay, Labour’s health spokesman, said: “The truth is that the NHS has been devolved since the inception of the Scottish Parliament and decisions on spending can only be made by the Scottish Government.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Doctors, just like everyone else, will have seen the crude attempts by the SNP to politicise the NHS in recent weeks.
“The outrageous and frankly inaccurate scaremongering is convincing no-one. The NHS in Scotland will exist regardless of which way the vote goes in September. It is our belief, which seems to be shared by doctors, that its future is far more secure as part of the wider UK.”