Will it be a Yes For NHS or Currency No Thanks?

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
It’s coming down to two clear issues in the race for the independence referendum.  The question is of course which of the two, NHS or Currency, chimes more with the electorate.
 
For the pro-Union Better Together campaign the dominant issue is currency, or rather a currency union.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
It’s coming down to two clear issues in the race for the independence referendum.  The question is of course which of the two, NHS or Currency, chimes more with the electorate.
 
For the pro-Union Better Together campaign the dominant issue is currency, or rather a currency union.

Alistair Darling believes this issue is the strong suit for the No campaign.  It’s resulted in what some see as an unholy alliance between Labour and the Conservatives with George Osborne and Ed Balls both pledging to block any currency agreement with an independent Scotland.

Uncomfortable truths have persisted, not least the UK balance of payments which would take a direct hit should the London parties follow through with their threat.  Labour leader Ed Miliband has also admitted that such a stance would hit businesses south of the border with hundreds of millions in transaction costs.

But Better Together are gambling that Scots will ignore these uncomfortable truths and reject independence.  If polls are to be believed the pro-Union campaign has work to do with the most recent survey suggesting voters do not believe the Labour/Tory scares over the pound.

For the Yes campaign the issue that has emerged at the eleventh hour is the NHS.

Few would argue that the institution lies dear to the hearts of most Scots.  The Yes campaign has seized on concerns over creeping privatisation south of the border.

The No camp insist policy decisions in England will not affect the Scottish NHS.  However the Yes camp counter that spending decisions taken at Westminster will indeed impact on the health service north of the border.

Although the NHS is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the key issue of the budget is not.  Cuts south of the border will mean proportional cuts in Scotland, which, say Yes, will harm Scotland’s NHS.

It’s a difficult area for Labour.  Last month Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham warned that the NHS in England would cease to exist in five years if privatisation wasn’t halted.  However UK Labour has merely asked for the current Tory policies to be halted until after the next general election.

Even if Labour wins the next general election, then Ed Miliband has already signalled the NHS budget will tighten – in a BBC interview the dreaded word ‘savings’ was used.  Savings of course is political speak for cuts.  It seems clear that whichever party forms the next UK Government then Scotland’s budget will be cut.

Indeed Labour has already pledged to work within the same budgetary constraints as George Osborne has already announced – Scotland will get less come what may.

Scottish Labour though is trying to promote a different message.  Whilst colleagues in England and Wales express concerns over the Tory privatisation agenda, Labour MSPs have been defending David Cameron’s government – Yes campaign concerns about the NHS are lies, they say.

It’s an unavoidable symptom of being in an alliance with the Conservatives against independence that when an issue is raised by the SNP, Scottish Labour has to take the side of its Tory arch enemy.

How traditional Labour voters in Scotland view this hitherto unthinkable cross-party cooperation may well decide the outcome of the referendum. 

The question for many undecided voters will be simple.  Which of the two issues is more important to you.

Will it be a Yes for the NHS or No Thanks to a Currency Union?