A fresh row over the NHS in Scotland erupted yesterday as rival politicians stepped up their efforts to woo undecided voters.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged Labour supporters to vote Yes to help protect the health service from the impact of privatisation plans south of the border.
But Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron claimed the SNP was peddling “false claims” in a move that represented the party’s “most scurrilous moment” in the referendum campaign.
He said control over the NHS in Scotland had been the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament since 1999.
Ms Sturgeon, a former health secretary, said the latest YouGov poll showed that support for a Yes vote amongst people who voted Labour in 2011 has surged to 30%, up from 18% last month.
“Labour created the health service and with a Yes vote in the referendum Labour voters have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect our public NHS,” she added.
“With a Yes vote we can enshrine the founding principles of an NHS in public hands in our constitution.
“It allows us to ensure no future government can do to Scotland’s NHS what the Tories are doing to the NHS in England.
“An independent Scotland will be one of the richest countries in the world and with a Yes vote we can use those wealth and resources to truly benefit people across Scotland and protect our NHS.”
But Mr Farron claimed only independence supporters could “open the door” to privatisation of the NHS in Scotland.
“Alex Salmond’s claim that MPs in England are hellbent on destroying the NHS in Scotland is the Yes campaign’s most scurrilous claim yet,” he added.
“Even if I wanted to, which of course I don’t, I couldn’t as the NHS in Scotland is run by Holyrood rather than Westminster.
“And across the UK our NHS has seen an increase in funding every year since it’s creation. It has doubled as a share of national income in 50 years.
“It has grown in the last four years too despite the nationalists’ claims.”
Mr Farron said the NHS was one of the UK’s finest achievements and he resented the nationalists’ “desperate attempt” to use it to break up Britain.