ALEX Salmond will today warn Scotland's NHS is under threat from increasing health service privatisation south of the Border.
He will use a speech in Liverpool to argue that cuts to the NHS in England will reduce budgets in Scotland under the Barnett formula used to distribute funding around the UK.
Commenting ahead of the speech, the First Minister was careful not to say that privatisation would follow in Scotland, where Holyrood is responsible for all decisions about the NHS.
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But he said: "Under the Westminster system, cuts to spending in England automatically trigger cuts in Scotland.
"So if private money replaces public funding in England, our budget will also be slashed, no matter what we want or need.
"With independence we will have control of both our tax system and the budget for public services, so we can protect the NHS and other vital public services from Westminster privatisation."
Under England's Health and Social Care Act, private healthcare providers have been encouraged to bid for NHS contracts.
Mr Salmond will tell an audience at the International Festival for Business: "We will also be a progressive beacon for those elsewhere across these islands looking for an alternative to Westminster privatisation.
"By demonstrating that a publicly funded, publicly run NHS is more efficient and provides a better level of patient care than a privatised service, we will provide valuable evidence for those in England campaigning against the sell-off of their health service."
Scottish Labour's health spokesman Neil Findlay accused him of "scaremongering" about the future of the Scottish NHS.
He said: "It is a mark of how desperate the First Minister has become that he is introducing the privatisation of the NHS as a campaign issue when everyone knows it is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Tories can't get their hands on our hospitals and health centres.
"The Yes campaign has failed to make the case for Scottish independence and has resorted to negative scaremongering and misinformation.
"The people of Scotland won't be fooled and neither will the people of Liverpool."
He added: "We are more concerned about the SNP's running of our NHS, which Scotland's top doctor described as a 'car crash'.
"Properly resourcing our hard-working doctors and nurses should be their aim."
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "Scotland already has full control over the NHS and the only threat to the health service is from the SNP's plans for separation."
Last week a leading surgeon warned the Scottish NHS faced privatisation by the back door as a result of policies down south.
Dr Philippa Whitford, a consultant breast surgeon at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, told a Yes campaign meeting: "In five years, England will not have an NHS and in 10 years, if we vote No, neither will we."
Her comments prompted calls for the Scottish Government to confirm it had no plans to increase the level of private provision within the health service.
Mr Salmond will speak to a business festival audience at Liverpool's historic St George's Hall. Shortly before he is due to speak, Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar will join Liverpool's Labour mayor Joe Anderson outside the venue to campaign for a No vote in the referendum.