Scottish independence: NHS in Scotland will face £1bn budget cuts if country breaks away, claims Ed Miliband

 

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The Independent Online

Scotland’s NHS could be left facing budget cuts of more than £1bn if the country votes for independence next week, Ed Miliband has warned.

Speaking alongside Gordon Brown at a rally in Glasgow, the Labour leader claimed that the “real threat” to Scotland’s health service was not the creep of privatisation from England but the financial risks posed by the country leaving the UK.

Data published by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, earlier this week suggested that Scotland would have to find an extra £21bn of cash reserves if it wanted to use the pound informally without a currency union, Mr Miliband suggested. The result, he added, would be deep cuts.

“Be in no doubt what this means. Over £1bn a year would be the NHS’s share of those cuts, the equivalent of 36,000 nurses. That is the real threat to NHS,” he told activists at the city’s Royal Concert Hall.

Pro-independence campaigners have focused on the health service, claiming only a Yes vote can protect it from privatisation. But this claim has been dismissed by unionist politicians, who point out control over the NHS is already devolved to Holyrood.

Mr Miliband said the NHS was a “symbol of how we treat people fairly whoever they are, wherever we live”. He used the example of Labour member Cathy Murphy from Glasgow, who fell ill in Liverpool and had her life saved by doctors at Broad Green Hospital, where she returns for frequent check-ups.

He said she was one of 43,000 Scots who travel to England for healthcare each year – but that after a Yes vote she would become one of many patients forced to “the back of the queue” to get the services they needed within Scotland.

“The NHS is stronger if we stay together,” he added. “Stronger because of the resources of the whole UK, stronger because we share world class services, stronger because people travel from Scotland to England and England to Scotland for life saving treatment. There is real risk to that NHS in separation.”

Responding to the comments, Yes campaign boss Blair Jenkins said: “It seems that in their desperation to rip apart the positive messages of Yes, the No campaign can’t even get their scaremongering right."

“Mr Miliband has made a particular blunder by using the case of Cathy Murphy to illustrate his false claim over risks to cross border treatment. His own Scottish leader Johann Lamont admitted last September that Ms Murphy would get the medical assistance she needed after independence.

“While they continue to make increasingly ludicrous claims, we will continue to promote the fantastic once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a Yes vote next Thursday offers.”

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