Alex Salmond is a “desperate man” making a “pretty desperate argument” for Scotland to become independent, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
With a month to go until voters in Scotland decide if the country should remain part of the UK or not, both sides of the referendum debate intensified their efforts ahead of the crucial poll.
Scottish First Minister Mr Salmond visited Arbroath Abbey, where the historic Declaration of Arbroath was made in 1320, setting out Scotland’s case that it was an independent, sovereign kingdom.
The SNP leader said the September 18 referendum gave voters in Scotland a “precious” opportunity to “take power out of the hands of the Westminster elite and into the hands of the people of Scotland”.
But Mr Cameron insisted that a key argument of the Yes campaign’s case for independence did not “stack up”.
Independence supporters have been arguing that to protect the NHS from the privatisation taking place south of the border in England, Scots should vote to leave the UK.
Answering questions after a speech in central London, the Prime Minister said: “ Health is a devolved issue.
“The only person who could, if they wanted to, introduce more private provision into the NHS in Scotland is Alex Salmond.
“I think this is a desperate man recognising the argument is going away from him making a pretty desperate argument.
“Because of the protection on NHS spending that the UK Government has given that we would not cut NHS spending while we have had to make difficult decisions elsewhere – that has actually made sure under the Barnett formula that money is available for Scotland as well.”
Campaigning in Glasgow on Monday morning, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins argued: “There are real threats and risks if we stay in the UK.
“People in Scotland are really waking up to the extent to which the NHS in England is being privatised, that’s coming up a lot.
“People know if we stay in the UK the austerity agenda, the pressure on public services, budget cuts, and all of that will continue.
“There’s no doubt this is touching a real emotional nerve with people, particularly women. They can see there is a really strong argument on that front for voting for independence.”
Mr Salmond insisted the future of the NHS was “the biggest issue in this campaign at the present moment and it is the one that’s moving minds and moving votes”.
The First Minister said it was “no wonder the No campaign are so frightened of it”.
Speaking as he toured a council house building programme in Arbroath following his visit to the abbey, he rejected claims that he was scaremongering on the health service.
The SNP leader said: “What we are saying about the health service is what Labour are saying in Wales, what they are saying in England, and the consequences for Scotland if we continue under the current arrangements.
“There is going to be consistent pressure on public services including the health service.”