Politicians Clash Over NHS Funding

Politicians in the Yes and No camps have clashed over NHS funding in a debate before Scotland's youngest generation of voters.

The BBC's Big, Big Debate in Glasgow's SSE Hydro venue was attended by thousands of 16 and 17-year-old's representing every secondary school in Scotland.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Respect MP George Galloway, took to the stage for the pro-UK campaign, while Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie argued the case for independence.

Topics covered included higher education tuition fees, Scotland's oil reserves and levels of poverty in the country.

The panelists clashed during a discussion on the best ways to protect the NHS.

Pro-independence campaigners have repeatedly claimed a Yes vote is needed to protect the NHS in Scotland - but this is fiercely denied by those who want Scotland to stay in the UK, who point out that decisions over health are already devolved to Holyrood.

Speaking for Yes Scotland, Mr Harvie, said: "There's a difference between being able to control policy on something like the NHS and being able to control Scotland's finances.

"Now, at the moment the UK Government is dead set on breaking up and privatising the structure itself of the NHS.''

He attacked what he saw as a "nasty, competitive, profit-driven motive'' and argued Scotland needed "control of its own finances and its own voice at a European level''.

Bradford West MP Mr Galloway, representing Better Together, claimed the Conservatives at Westminster "will be out in the spring'', killing off "the privatisation agenda''.

He said: "The National Health Service is an entirely devolved matter. It could only be privatised if people were foolish enough to elect a Scottish government that was ready to privatise it.''

Former health secretary Ms Sturgeon said: "I know how hard it is to protect the budget of the health service when our overall budget is being reduced by Westminster.

"I will fight with every breath in my body to keep the National Health Service in public hands, but we are going to be more able to do that when we have control of our own budget so that we set our own priorities.''

But Ms Davidson claimed Ms Sturgeon had not responded to the point from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, "who said that health spending and health consequentials that got sent up to Scotland weren't spent on health''.

"The Scottish Government has chosen to protect the NHS in Scotland less than it has been protected in England,'' she said.

Teenagers aged 16 and 17 will be able to vote in next Thursday's referendum when voters will be asked the Yes/No question "Should Scotland be an independent country?''

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