A GAFFE-PRONE Tory MSP is facing more criticism after saying she would be “quite happy if government had nothing to do with running of the NHS”.

Michelle Ballantyne made the remark at the end of a Tory-led debate on health at Holyrood.

Her critics suggested it was nod towards privatisation.

The South of Scotland MSP was last year urged to resign after saying it was only “fair that people on benefit cannot have as many children as they like”, a reference to the ‘rape clause’ and related Tory benefit curbs that limit welfare to the first two children in a family.

On Wednesday, the former nurse told MSPs the Scottish Government should not use the health service as a political football or micro-manage it.

She said: “In fact, to be perfectly honest, as somebody who has spent a long time in the NHS, I would be quite happy if government had nothing to do with the running of the NHS, quite frankly.”

As other MSPs reacted angrily, she went on: “That will never, ever happen because of the money around it. But it should be run by the people who know best.”

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SNP MSP Emma Harper said: “This was a stunning intervention and I hope Michelle Ballantyne has the good sense to withdraw her remarks.

“The NHS is a treasured, publicly-owned institution and it is right that Scottish ministers are ultimately accountable for it.

“It is entirely unacceptable for a Tory frontbencher to say that the government should have ‘nothing to do’ with our health service – and you do wonder what the Tories would prefer to have in its place.”

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Labour MSP Monica Lennon added: “Michelle Ballantyne has reminded the people of Scotland why the NHS will never be safe in Tory hands.

"The SNP have allowed the private sector to creep into our NHS but the Scottish Tories would take it out of public hands altogether.”