ALEX Salmond has been accused of prioritising the campaign for independence ahead of problems in the health service and further education.

The First Minister faced repeated claims at Holyrood that he was out of touch with the real needs of Scots after Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont highlighted the case of a cancer patient unable to access life-prolonging drugs.

Anne Fisher, 50, a mother-of-three from Greenock, contacted her MSP after she was told she could not be treated with ipilimumab, a drug not sanctioned for routine use in Scotland but widely available in England.

Ms Lamont told MSPs: "If she lived in England she would be receiving drugs which could prolong her life.

"Because she lives in Scotland she doesn't get that treatment.

"Whatever the First Minister is doing, what he is certainly not doing is addressing the real needs of Scots. He'd rather play games of imagining where he might be in three years time than face the reality of today.

"And while he pretends, the needs of Scots seeking jobs are ignored. Patients like Anne Fisher go untreated, students miss out on a college education and the First Minister prepares the seating plan for our independence ball."

The attack came after the Scottish Government published a "transition timetable" for independence. Under the plan Scotland would achieve independence in March 2016 if Scots vote Yes in next year's referendum.

Labour has called for a full review of access to medicines.

Drugs are approved for routine use by the Scottish Medicines Councils (SMC). Decisions sometimes differ from those taken by its counterpart down south, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

The Scottish Government – backed by Labour – has resisted calls for the creation of a special cancer drugs fund.

But in response to growing concerns over access to medicines, Health Secretary Alex Neil last month announced a £21 million fund to cover the cost of drugs rejected for routine use by the SMC but required by only a small number of people.

Mr Salmond said: "The whole area of access to drug treatments is an extremely serious one. We're trying to find the best system which allows our people to have access to the best possible treatment."