SCOTLAND'S top civil servant last night sparked a cross-Border row after a video emerged of him deriding the Coalition's NHS reforms and calling their core idea "enormously risky".

Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden told Scottish NHS managers that Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley "could not persuade anyone" that having GPs commission patient care in England instead of health trusts was what was needed to improve the health service.

The £180,000-a-year mandarin, who as a member of the UK civil service is supposed to be politically neutral, suggested Lansley lacked a clear "story" about why the controversial changes were needed, and had failed to identify what action to take.

Housden referred dismissively to GP commissioning, the central plank of the Lansley reforms, as "a solution to no known problem".

Contrary to David Cameron's pre-election promise not to impose top-down reorganisation, the NHS plan was "such a big set of reforms it can be seen on an inter-galactic basis," he joked.

The comments were made in a training seminar called Stands Scotland where it did?, a video of which was put online by the Scottish NHS.

In it, Housden said the Scottish Government had developed a seven-point test for new policies called "Changing the World", which asked if they had vision, a recognisable story, clear actions and other necessary qualities.

Applying the test to the Coalition's NHS reforms, he said Lansley "got a tick" for a vision of a world-class health service free at delivery.

But he went on: "Thereafter Mr Lansley got into a bit of trouble. Had he got, secondly, a story to enable people to recognise where the NHS south of the Border had been and where it was going?

"And thirdly, could they recognise a set of actions that would help move them forward? Now here we come to GP commissioning – a solution to no known problem.

"Mr Lansley could not persuade anyone, actually, [that] the things that they perceived needed to happen in the NHS would be resolved by GP commissioning. People could see some of that argument, but to base a system on all of that seemed to be enormously risky."

The comments last night led to fresh criticism of Housden, who is already facing claims of "going native" for being too close to Alex Salmond. Last year, the Scottish leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties complained to the UK Cabinet Secretary about Sir Peter's apparent enthusiasm for independence.

In his talk to NHS managers, Housden suggested people had voted SNP because they were ambitious for Scotland. He said: "I think the election result affirms a high level of ambition, a population that wants to see Scotland move forward."

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: "Senior civil servants should not be expressing views on party political matters north or south of the Border. Once again, Scotland's most senior civil servant is exposed for being far too cosy with Alex Salmond's separatist agenda."

But Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "I think on this issue Peter Housden has caught the mood of people not just in Scotland, but across the whole of the UK. The Tory reforms would be a disaster for the NHS."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "A key part of Sir Peter's role as head of the Scottish Government civil service is to discuss important issues in public policy.

"On this occasion he was illustrating the Scottish Government's approach by contrasting it to the very different nature of NHS reform elsewhere in the UK."