As both sides bunker down in the final weeks of the referendum campaign, Alex Salmond and the SNP went for the jugular by claiming that the best way for Scots to protect the NHS is to vote Yes.
But wait. What they had forgotten to mention is the running of the NHS is already devolved. And Alex Salmond already control of it. And all policy and spending decisions are made in Scotland. So they’re claiming to fight for something they’ve already got.
Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson says: “The SNP are lying about the NHS and they know it. They have no bottom line and are happy to lie and scare the sick and the vulnerable to try and revive their faltering campaign.”
And ironically the biggest threat the funding for Scotland’s NHS comes from independence as economists have warned that an additional £6 billion of spending cuts would be necessary.
Malcolm Chisholm, a Labour MSP and former Scottish health minister says: “Isn’t the real threat to the Scottish NHS the possibility of a Yes vote and the increased austerity that would follow according to all the independent economists?”
The SNP argue that cuts to England’s NHS would be passed north of the Border thanks to the Barnett Formula, which calculates the block grant made to the Scottish government on the basis of English funding for areas such as health, education and policing. But spending on England’s NHS is scheduled to increase from £105.6 billion in 2013/14 to £110.4billion in 2015/16.
And when challenged in Holyrood, Salmond’s health minister, Alex Neil, couldn’t provide a single example of the Treasury having cut the NHS budget.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman, Jackson Carlow, says: “For all the SNP’s tall talk on private healthcare, the fact is the health service in Scotland is completely devolved and the SNP claims that a No vote threatens it existence is nothing more than shameless scaremongering.
And David Cameron hit back at the SNP claims by saying angrily: “Health is a devolved issue. So the only person who could, if they wanted to, introduce more private provision into the NHS in Scotland in Alex Salmond. Alex Salmond is a desperate man peddling a desperate argument.”
A Scottish Research Society spokesperson says: “The NHS is clearly a very highly charged issue which people on both sides care passionately about. However, it’s utterly ridiculous that Alex Salmond is insulting the intelligence of the voters he’s trying to win over by claiming to fight for powers that he’s already got. That he thinks such a tactic is appropriate speaks volumes about his arrogance. He’s clearly grasping at straws because he knows the issue is a vote winner. But a win is only worth it when it’s based on fact, not fiction.”