Independence is the best way to protect Scotland’s NHS and do more to tackle the scandal of health inequalities, Health Secretary Alex Neil has said.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health was speaking during a visit to the site of the new South Glasgow Hospital, where he announced the Scottish Government has approved a new £20 million administration complex for the flagship project.
Mr Neil said that, as control of health policy is already devolved, the substantial gains made in Scotland’s NHS would be both protected and built on under independence.
However, the Cabinet Secretary has also warned about the potential dangers to public funding of sticking with the current constitutional arrangements.
In a letter to the Health Committee, Mr Neil highlighted that the UK Government’s own assessment of the impact of their reforms to NHS England could amount to a reduction in UK health spending of more than £1 billion a year.
Under the current funding system, that could see Scotland lose out on £100 million every year to spend on public services like health.
Mr Neil said:
“We’re fortunate that the running of the NHS in Scotland is already independent from Westminster, and has followed a very different path to the health service in England since devolution.
“Indeed, the NHS is one of Scotland’s greatest success stories, and I know we are all immensely proud of the care it delivers, day in, day out, to thousands of people right across Scotland.
“The superb, flagship project to build a new South Glasgow hospital is apt demonstration of this Government’s commitment and investment in Scotland’s NHS.
“Everyone in Scotland should be reassured that this Government has no intention of following the path of privatisation and so-called reforms being pursued by the UK Government in England, which I believe threaten the very foundations on which the NHS was built.
“Independence will allow us to do more to tackle the scandal that is health inequality. We’re already acting within the powers available to us – for example through a range of measures to tackle Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol and regulate tobacco.
“But it’s shameful that children born in the poorest parts of our country can still expect to live 11 years less than those in wealthiest areas. Life expectancy should not be decided on where you are born – independence gives us the levers and opportunity to end generations of failure on this issue from Westminster.”