Scottish independence: NHS staff sign ‘Yes’ letter

NEARLY 70 doctors and nurses have signed an open letter backing independence, amid concerns Scotland’s NHS may face the kind of cuts that have hit the service in Wales.

Sturgeon: "...To protect the NHS then you need to vote Yes". Picture: Jane Barlow
Sturgeon: "...To protect the NHS then you need to vote Yes". Picture: Jane Barlow

The Labour administration in Cardiff has been forced to cut health spending by 3.6 per cent in real terms since the UK coalition came to power – and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has blamed Westminster cuts.

But critics accused the Nationalists of the “biggest deception” of the independence campaign, as the NHS is fully controlled by the Scottish Parliament.

The signatories to yesterday’s letter included consultants, GPs, midwives, nurses and academics, who warned the NHS in Scotland could be “starved of resources”.

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Their letter states: “Alistair Darling would have you believe that the warnings of Labour MPs in England about the dire privatised future of NHS England, and the warnings of the Labour government in Wales about the impact of Tory cuts to their NHS, should be ignored in Scotland.

“However, even his own Scottish Labour MP colleagues have highlighted their fears about the impact of Westminster’s plans for the NHS here in Scotland.”

The signatories include GPs Andrew Brown and Anne Mullin, consultant radiologist Catriona Pagliari, consultant surgeon Philippa Whitford, biomedical scientists Katrina Patterson and dentist Jon Drummond.

They say Westminster is wedded to “further and deeper austerity”, with at least a further £25 billion in cuts to public spending planned by the Tories.

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Their letter goes on: “With a Yes vote we can enshrine the NHS as a publicly owned institution, serving the people of Scotland, free at the point of need.”

The SNP claims that the introduction of more private firms into the health service in England could eventually see a fall in the amount of public money being used to fund the NHS. This could lead to a knock-on reduction in Scotland’s overall budget, although NHS budgets in England have continued to increase in recent years.

The SNP is keen to put the future of the health service at the heart of the independence campaign after polling showed the issue could sway undecided voters to back Yes.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hit the campaign trail in Glasgow yesterday with Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, and delivered a stark warning about the potential impact on the NHS if Scotland stays in the UK.

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She added: “As we get closer to the referendum, more and more people are waking up to the golden opportunity of a Yes vote to build a fairer society, create job opportunities and protect Scotland’s NHS.”

The Plaid Cymru leader criticised the Welsh First Minister, who hits the campaign trail in Scotland today, for telling Scots they are “too wee and too poor” to be independent.

However, the Yes campaign’s claims about the NHS came under fire from one of the country’s leading consultants.

Malcolm Macleod, professor of neurology at the University of Edinburgh, warned that independence would be “devastating” for the NHS.

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He said: “It is because I love our NHS that I am voting No. I can’t put it any plainer than that. If we leave the UK, it would be devastating for our NHS here in Scotland. We could not cope with the cuts that would follow.”

He added: “Not only is this the biggest deception of the campaign, it insults every single one of the doctors and nurses that I work alongside.”

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