A warning from Labour that the NHS is “heading for the rocks” has been seized upon by independence campaigners.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called for any moves that put the health service “up for sale” in England to be frozen until after the general election.
He claimed the government was creating a part-privatised, two-tier health market and suggested that five more years of the same would “push the NHS off the cliff-edge”.
The SNP claim any reduction in the NHS budget in England and Wales has a direct impact on how much money is available for health north of the border.
Independence campaigners claimed Labour’s intervention was further proof that only a Yes vote can save the NHS.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Andy Burnham’s comments today show that the NHS privatisation agenda south of the border has become like a runaway freight train – one which will be of grave concern to people in Scotland.
“Every step towards privatisation south of the border puts the funding that underpins Scotland’s NHS in greater jeopardy, as budget cuts have a knock-on impact in Scotland under devolution.”
Dr Willie Wilson, founder member of NHS for Yes, said: “This speech from Andy Burnham is confirmation that Westminster Labour, and Mr Burnham in particular, are all over the place on health.
“It was Tony Blair who ramped up the old Thatcher idea of privatisation, so they’ve had ten years to realise that a disaster is unfolding in the English NHS.”
Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “Scots won’t be fooled by Alex Neil’s blatant attempt to mislead voters. As the nationalists well know, decisions about Scotland’s health service are taken by the people who live and work here.
“What happens in England has no impact on the NHS in Scotland. Alex Neil should apologise for misleading Scots.
“Our NHS is a great example of how we can have the best of both worlds for Scotland.
“We take decisions about our NHS that suit Scotland’s circumstances, and we benefit from spreading the cost of investing in our hospitals across an economy of more than 63million people in the UK, rather than just 5million people in Scotland.”