THE NHS should be legally protected from the privatisation under the written constitution of an independent Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond said on Wednesday.
He warned that only a Yes vote will protect the health service from looming cuts. The NHS is already fully under control of the Scottish Parliament, but the SNP Government fears that increasing privatisation south of the border will mean less public money being used to fund it and this will have a knock-on in Scotland’s Budget which would be cut.
Mr Salmond says the NHS will now be among the areas considered by the constitutional convention which will be given the task of drafting a written constitution for Scotland following a Yes vote in the referendum.
“With independence we have the golden opportunity to enshrine (Nye) Bevan’s founding principles for our National Health Service in the written constitution for Scotland – publicly-owned, clinically-driven, and freely-delivered equally for all – a guarantee that not only will the NHS be kept in public hands, but that the services that are free to access today will be free to access in the future.
“Constitutional protection for the NHS is our promise to generations yet to come that in the Scotland we seek no one will be denied medical aid because of lack of means.
“The NHS is the at the heart of our nation, and I want it to be at the heart of our constitution.”
The NHS was created by the past-war Labour Government and its architect was health minister Nye Bevan. Polling regularly shows it be a key issue among voter concerns.
“Nye Bevan’s founding principles for the National Health Service was for an institution owned by the people, which ensured that all have access to the highest attainable standard of health services, free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need and not ability to pay,” Mr Salmond added.
“For me that is not a simple a matter of policy, it’s a fundamental part of Scotland’s national identity.
“In England, despite the protest of many, the NHS is being eroded and the founding principles handed down by Bevan have been scorned and betrayed but successive Westminster Governments.
“It’s now well understood that voting Yes will allow us to protect Scotland’s NHS from the threat to budgets here as a consequence of the cult of austerity and privatisation being forced on the NHS in England.”
But the NHS claims came under fire from Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie who branded the First Minister’s claims “dishonest, desperate and disgraceful.”
Mr Rennie added: “It is also factually wrong.
“Despite the financial pressure of the global financial crisis, the NHS budget has been protected and NHS funding in England is now £12.7 billion higher than it was in 2010”.
“Private sector involvement in England’s NHS is paid for with public money, meaning that the cash equivalent is protected for Scotland – and the Scottish Government can spend it however they see fit.
“The publicly-funded NHS was this year ranked best healthcare system across the 11 richest countries in the world – and we are determined to keep it that way.”