The SNP has long complained of “Tory austerity”, imposed on Scotland by a heartless UK Government. But, increasingly, the rallying cry of other parties has been “SNP austerity”.
Now Miles Briggs, the Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, has accused Nicola Sturgeon of being the “Beeching of the NHS” because of cuts to health services in rural areas, which he compared to the infamous closures of many a rail line and station in the 1960s.
While some may accuse Briggs of dressing up in left-wing clothes to attack the SNP, it is an astute strategy.
If the dream of Scandinavian-style wealth and social equality dies in the minds of Scots, how many will take the gamble of independence? Support for the SNP may fade.
So Sturgeon needs to find a way to make sure the NHS provides an acceptable level of service that the country can actually afford – both for the sake of her own party’s ambitions and for everyone in Scotland.
And that, as The Scotsman has said before, may involve some tough decisions on issues like free prescriptions.