Only Yes can protect NHS from Westminster privatisation says Sturgeon

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The NHS is set to become a key battleground in the referendum campaign after Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon highlighted what she said was the threat of a No vote.
 
Speaking ahead of the Scottish Cabinet’s meeting in Wick when ministers will hold their latest in a series of public engagement and Q&A sessions with members of the public around the country, Ms Sturgeon warned of the growing threat to the NHS in Scotland from Westminster’s privatisation agenda.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The NHS in Scotland is a great national asset which people all across the country depend on and have the deepest admiration and regard for.
 
“But people should be under no illusion about the threat to the NHS here in Scotland from Westminster’s privatisation agenda.
 
“Moves to privatise the health service in England began with Labour’s backing of foundation hospitals and have now moved up a gear under the Tories.
 
“We are absolutely committed to keeping the NHS in public hands here in Scotland – but in the event of a No vote that would not stop our health service being hit by hugely damaging cuts as a knock-on effect of NHS privatisation south of the border.”
 
The Deputy First Minister’s comments follow an intervention this week from a leading breast surgeon, Dr Philippa Whitford, who has warned of the potentially devastating consequences for the NHS in Scotland if there is not a Yes vote in September.

In an interview with the Daily Record, Dr Philippa Whitford, 55, said that without independence the NHS in Scotland will simply wither away.

The Belfast born consultant said: “In five years, England will not have an NHS and in 10 years, if we vote no, neither will we.

“If we do not vote Yes in September, I will be heartbroken.  I have spent 32 years working in the NHS and it is very dear to me.”
 
Ms Sturgeon added:
 
“Many of the health professionals working in Scotland’s NHS, who do such an outstanding job, are deeply worried about the future of the health service if we do not take our own future into our own hands.
 
“Some of those doctors, nurses and others have joined the NHS for Yes group – and in the last week we have had a leading surgeon voice her fears about the health service in Scotland if we do not vote Yes.
 
“Dr Philippa Whitford’s words are a powerful testimony from someone on the very front line of health care in this country that the future of the NHS as we know it can only be fully secured and guaranteed in an independent Scotland.”
 
Concerns have already been raised that a No vote in September’s referendum will lead to a cut in the Scottish budget. 

Supporters of independence have pointed out that creeping privatisation south of the border will mean less funding for the NHS in England, which in turn will lead to Scotland’s budget as our proportional allocation is also reduced.

In 2012, Scottish Labour Mps were slammed after they voted in favour of increased privatisation in the English NHS.  The MPs, including Deputy Scottish Leader Anas Sarwar, and 31 of his Scottish Labour colleagues including Shadow Scottish Secretary of State Margaret Curran and former Secretary of State Jim Murphy, voted in favour of the proposal.

Fears for the independence of the Scottish NHS increased in 2013 when Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for health, said he wanted: “health policies that can be consistent across England, Scotland and Wales.”

The Deputy First Minister said: “The future of the NHS is becoming a key battleground in this referendum campaign, and from now until polling day we will make the case that only a Yes vote can fully protect Scotland health service.”