Scotland's "missing million" unregistered voters are being urged to protect the NHS north of the border by backing independence.

Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan made the plea after Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham called for a halt to NHS privatisation in England.

Mr Canavan said that a No vote in the independence ballot could "threaten the very existence of the NHS in Scotland as we know it".

Labour's Jackie Baillie branded his claims the "latest in a long line of scare stories from an increasingly desperate campaign".

But Mr Canavan, a former Labour MP who is now campaigning for independence, urged Scots not on the electoral roll to register in time to make their voice heard in September's referendum.

Mr Canavan said: "For all those who have never voted, or who haven't seen a reason to vote for years, now is the time to make sure your voice is heard, because Scotland needs you to protect our NHS.

"We need a Yes to give Scotland's health service an absolute guarantee. Anything less is not good enough, and presents too big a risk for a service that is at the very heart of Scottish society."

He said that the Scottish Parliament has "helped to protect the NHS in Scotland" but said it would be "naive to imagine that this will continue indefinitely" if Scotland remained in the United Kingdom.

"With Scotland's budget at present decided by Westminster, cuts to NHS spending in England as a result of privatisation will automatically means cuts for Scotland too," he said.

"Only a Yes vote ensures that Westminster health privatisation can't and won't damage Scotland's NHS. Under current UK arrangements, cuts in English health spending would mean cuts to Scotland's funding. Voting No could therefore threaten the very existence of the NHS in Scotland as we know it.

"That's a risk too far and a risk I know the people of Scotland will not want us to take.Only with the full powers of independence can our protection of our health service be guaranteed."

But Ms Baillie, a Labour MSP, said: "Dennis Canavan should apologise for deliberately trying to scare and mislead Scots. As a former MSP he knows that decisions about the health service in Scotland are taken here in Scotland. That's what is great about devolution - we decide what happens to our NHS in Scotland, and the investment is paid for by taxpayers across the whole of the UK. It's the best of both worlds.

"The independent experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made very clear that if we leave the UK our public services would be faced with cuts of up to £6 billion in the first few years. Independence would put our NHS at risk, which is why we should say no thanks in September."