This week the Gazette asked the campaign leaders for their views on the independence debate’s big questions.
Yes campaign chief executive Blair Jenkins and No campaign director Blair McDougall didn’t pull their punches.
And they were only too happy to round-up our independence debate coverage by sharing their views with readers.
In the third of five questions, the two Blairs go toe to toe on the NHS in Scotland.
Question: What impact/benefits would independence have on the NHS and its services and staff in Scotland?
Blair Jenkins, Yes campaign: Only independence provides us with full control over our NHS and full protection from the effects of Westminster policies. For although we already run our own NHS in Scotland, the overall budget available for public services is still determined by Westminster.
Labour in England is increasingly warning about the threat of NHS privatisation – in fact Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has said that the current privatisation reforms may cause the English NHS to be “broken up” within a decade.
Trade unions and healthcare professionals warn that patients down south will increasingly be made to pay for services. And Labour’s Health Minister in Wales has complained that the Westminster agenda of privatisation and cuts mean less money for devolved services like the Welsh (and Scottish) NHS.
If any one of these warnings comes true – and private money and patient fees do replace public funding in England – that would mean cuts to Scotland’s budget. And we already know Scotland could face extra cuts after No, if the Barnett funding formula is scrapped.
Our NHS and its valued staff deserve the certainty that we can protect its budget from the impacts of Westminster cuts and privatisation – and that only comes with independence.
Blair McDougall, No campaign: The biggest risk to our NHS is the £6 billion of cuts that separation would bring, over and above what we are already facing, as identified by the Institute of Fiscal studies. That’s half of our NHS budget.
That’s a risk we don’t need to take.
Recently the Nationalists have lied to voters across Scotland about the future of our NHS. They have misleadingly claimed that reforms in England effect the NHS in Scotland.
However, since 1999, health has been completely devolved to the Scottish Parliament and it is politicians at Holyrood that make the decisions that affect it.
By saying No Thanks to separation, we can protect our NHS for generations to come, regardless of the lies that the Nationalists have been using to scare voters into backing separation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. By saying No Thanks to separation we can have the best of both worlds.
That’s a stronger Scottish Parliament, with more powers guaranteed, making all decisions over our NHS backed up by the strength, security and stability of being part of something bigger.
Look out for the remainder of the questions answered by the two Blairs every hour, on the hour, until 8pm tonight.