Sir Keir Starmer represents "a clear and present danger to the NHS," John Swinney has claimed. 

The First Minister hit out at the Labour leader and what he described as the "Thatcherite" arguments being made by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting who has said he wants more private sector involvement in the health service in England and Wales.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar yesterday accused the SNP of "scaremongering and lies." 

Despite being devolved, the future of the NHS has become a key battleground in the General Election north of the border, with both the Scottish Government’s track record and Labour's proposals coming under scrutiny.

READ MORE: Sarwar insists NHS 'will never be sold off to private firms' by a Labour government


In a statement released ahead of Labour's manifesto launch, Mr Swinney said traditional Labour voters would be "appalled by Wes Streeting’s ideology".

"That a Labour health secretary in waiting is making these Thatcherite arguments shows just how far Labour have strayed from Scotland’s values," he added.

The First Minister - who visited an Asda in Edinburgh while on the campaign trail yesterday -  said the SNP would bring forward a Bill in the Commons to "keep the NHS in public hands."

"If Keir Starmer was not intending on pursuing a privatisation agenda, he would make clear that he supports us," Mr Swinney said. 

In a speech in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Mr Sarwar pointed to long A&E waits in Scotland and the more than 840,000 people waiting for a test or procedure.

The NHS was, he said, “on its knees”.

He added: “The damage inflicted on our NHS by the SNP is an absolute scandal. SNP first minister after SNP first minister, SNP health secretary after SNP health secretary should hang their heads in shame for breaking something so precious to us all.”

He said the damage had created a “two-tier health service” where some patients are forced to access private healthcare for treatment.

Mr Sarwar added: “Let me make this crystal clear to the SNP: A Labour government in the UK, and in Scotland, will never, ever privatise the NHS. It is our baby.

“Stop the scaremongering and the lies. Stop insulting the intelligence of people across Scotland.”

“We will get out NHS back on its feet.”

After the speech, he was confronted by a 73-year-old Labour activist who had concerns about the role of the private sector.

He interrupted Mr Sarwar’s Q&A with journalists to say: “Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary in Keir Starmer’s cabinet, has repeatedly, time and time and time again, said a major plan for reforming the NHS is letting private health care into our NHS system.

“He has been unapologetic about that. He is unashamedly in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. I think it’s a disgrace.”

But Mr Sarwar replied: The words used by Wes Streeting, and I’ll quote them directly – ‘I would die in a ditch before allowing the NHS to be privatised’.

“What he was speaking of is some of the innovations in terms of the nutrients and machines of the future. So much of those innovations and investments are being done in the private sector.

“Let’s not make it about throwing out left or right divides in the Labour Party, or about individual politicians.

“Let’s make it about fixing the NHS. That’s my mission – that’s the Labour Party mission.”

READ MORE: Flynn: We will hold referendum in five years if SNP win

Immediately before Mr Sarwar left the stage, the Labour member replied: “But how can you invest in the NHS by handing over millions and billions in private care?”

Earlier, in response to journalists, Mr Sarwar said his party will look to use additional money made from clamping down on non-domiciled tax loopholes to incentivise staff working in the private health sector to commit to the NHS.

He said: “We’re not ruling out using capacity but our preference is to invest in creating the capacity in the NHS.”

In his speech, he also said: “A Labour government in the UK, and in Scotland, will never, ever privatise the NHS.”