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Labour veteran slams 'hypocrisy' of party on NHS

THE Labour leadership in Scotland has "lost all credibility" over the NHS, claimed a former party chairman as the war of words continued on whether the service's future is better with Scotland in or out of the UK.

Bob Thomson, a former office bearer in the party and prominent trade union official, accused Better Together leader Alistair Darling, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and the former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell of "sheer hypocrisy" over the different message of the party north and south of the Border.

But Lord McConnell attacked the Yes campaign for the "big, huge lie" about a No vote posing any threat to the future of the NHS in Scotland.

And Labour rounded on the Scottish Government over the use of zero-hours contracts in the health service and double standards over the controversial transatlantic trade deal which is at the centre of the debate over NHS privatisation.

Mr Thomson, a party member for more than 50 years and a leading figure in Labour For Independence, said Better Together were "fooling no-one with their claims that the Scottish NHS cannot be damaged by Westminster cuts".

He said: "It is no surprise that already more than 230,000 Labour supporters have said they will vote Yes on September 18 and I have no doubt that this is due in no small part to the sheer hypocrisy of Darling, Lamont and now Jack McConnell.

"Today, to support their Tory partners in the No campaign, they say Scotland's NHS faces no threat from Westminster. Yet they have said the exact opposite in previous campaigns.

"Labour MPs, including Alastair Darling, got elected campaigning on the threat that the Tories at Westminster pose to funding for our public services. Now they are asking us to trust the Westminster Tories with the future of our NHS."

Lord McConnell told a Better Together event in Edinburgh: "After four different first ministers and five different health ministers our Parliament's record on health is without question our own responsibility and has been achieved without interference.

"The idea that home rule inside the UK threatens the Scottish NHS is a lie." But Mr Thomson countered: "The deception here is clearly theirs.

"They cannot seriously expect Labour supporters to believe that while their colleagues in England and Wales are pointing up the damage to the NHS because of Westminster Tory cuts that somehow, magically, there would be no similar impact here given that Scotland depends on its funding from a Westminster block grant."

Over the weekend the Yes and No campaigns set out rival visions on the NHS.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie argued a Yes vote would "save Scotland's NHS" on a visit to Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary. Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour's health spokesman, said: "Alex Salmond, his SNP Government and the Yes campaign talk a good game on the NHS but Scots will judge them on their actions and they have failed to live up to their rhetoric.

"The fact that thousands of workers are on bank contracts, which we know now are often just zero-hours contracts by disguise, is a damning indictment of the SNP's sticking-plaster approach to managing the NHS.

"Indeed, the increasing use and spending on bank and agency work is, as Audit Scotland stated, a signal that there are 'strains in the system'."

Referring to the transatlantic free trade deal, he added: "They have also been badly exposed for their scaremongering tactics on NHS privatisation - the Yes campaign has made the TTIP trade deal the cornerstone of their campaign. Now it emerged that Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have all publicly backed the deal."

But the Scottish Government accused Labour of selective quotation of Ministers on the TTIP. For example, only the first page of a letter from Mr Swinney to a Holyrood Committee was quoted on the broad question of support for the deal.

But on the second page Mr Swinney said that "given the vital importance of the NHS to the people of Scotland and concerns about the impact of TTIP on the NHS" the Health Secretary was writing to his Westminster counterpart requiring "cast-iron assurances" that there would be "no obligation to open the NHS in Scotland to private providers as was happening in England".

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