The Scottish Government has been accused of preying on the fears of the sick and elderly with claims about threats to the NHS.
UK Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the SNP were misleading voters with claims that privatisation of the English health service would result in cuts to the Scottish NHS budget.
Mr Burnham last night repeated his pledge to “fight any attempt by the Tories to privatise the NHS”.
It comes after new figures show that the NHS in Scotland has spent £100m on sending patients for private treatment since 2011.
This is despite Alex Salmond’s claim three years ago that the private sector had been “eradicated” from the health service north of the border.
Mr Burnham added that apart from increasing the use of private contractors, the first minister “also missed the point”.
He said: “Private medicine is more expensive than the NHS. Increasing private contractors pushes costs up.
“So if anything, Scotland would get more cash out of the spending formula for public services.
“I have to say I have seen some desperate tactics in my time in politics. But I think Alex Salmond’s attempts to play on the fears of the old, the sick and the vulnerable is beneath contempt.”
Dr Willie Wilson, co-founder of the pro-independence group NHS for Yes, accused unionists of putting out contradictory messages on either side of the border.
He said: “The risk of a No is very clear. They cannot give any guarantee that privatisation of the NHS in England won’t have a damaging knock on effect on Scotland’s health service, because funding for Scotland’s public services will be automatically linked to spending changes in England – a point made by Scottish Labour in previous election campaigns.”
Alex Neil said that Mr Burnham’s comments were “ridiculous” and “highlighted” Labour’s “hypocritical” position on the NHS funding threat.
He said: “Andy Burnham himself has warned that the NHS in England is being – in his words – ‘destroyed’ by the privatisation agenda.
“The No campaign are saying one thing to Scottish referendum voters, and saying the complete opposite to everyone else – and they will pay a heavy price at the ballot box for trying to defend Tory cuts.
“No one seriously believes that the Tories are privatising the NHS in order to spend more public money on it.”