I AM not, thanks goodness, an economist.

The claims and counter-claims being made about the economic consequences of independence confuse me. We have one Nobel Prize-winning economist saying independence would be the best thing for Scotland and another saying the complete opposite. I take that to mean that no one really knows what is likely to happen.

Most economic arguments seem to lack objectivity and are simply advanced to support the prejudices of the person making them. I gave up listening weeks ago.

I do know something about healthcare, however, and it has been frustrating to hear the promises made in the past week about the NHS in Scotland. In the UK, we are facing increasing privatisation of the NHS and there is very little anyone can do about it in Scotland so long as we remain part of the UK.

While it is technically correct that control of the NHS in Scotland is currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the UK government is a member state of the EU and the European Commission is currently negotiating with the US a free trade agreement of unprecedented scale which will affect Scotland's ability to control its NHS.

This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP). Once it has been ratified by the European Parliament, its implementation will be mandatory across all countries, including Scotland if it remains in the UK.

If agreed, TTIP is likely to give transnational companies such as American healthcare providers the legal right to bid for all government spending, including spending on health where private companies are already running those services. This is the case in England.

It also includes provisions to allow companies to sue governments if they take action which adversely affect future profits. Such actions might be the imposition of regulations to improve safety in hospitals, protection of public health or the environment and protection of the rights of those working in the privatised industries.

Those promoting TTIP say that health will be exempt from the treaty because it is a public service. However, in the context of free trade agreements, the term "public service" usually refers only to those services that are not supplied on a commercial basis, or are not in competition with other service providers.

Since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act (2012) in England, the NHS in the UK does not conform to this description.

Gordon Brown's optimism that he can protect the NHS is unlikely to be justified. UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said recently that TTIP will not affect the NHS but the attractive aspect of this treaty for those intent on privatisation is the fact that ending private contracts would render a future Labour government liable to be sued for loss of profits. Privatisation of the NHS in Britain is, therefore, locked in to the future.

Allowing American healthcare companies to run our health service seems insane, but it is merely the culmination of a process I first witnessed around 12 years ago.

I was invited to speak at a conference at Stanford University in California by Alain Enthoven. He is the economist who produced the report on the UK NHS which Mrs Thatcher used as the justification for introducing the internal market into the UK.

The topic of the conference was "the future of the American healthcare system" and I was speaking because we had done work in Glasgow in measuring the outcome of cancer care. I was expecting a meeting in which doctors debated how they could improve care.

In fact, it was a meeting in which a small number of chief executives of healthcare providers debated how they could grow their businesses.

They concluded that the prospects for growth of their businesses were limited in the US so the future of the American healthcare system was to get world trade regulators to deregulate healthcare in other countries so that the Americans could bid to take them over. I thought that could never happen in the UK. How naive I was.

The plan moved forward in 2004 when Tony Blair's adviser in health left the Cabinet Office to take up a post as a senior executive in a major American healthcare corporation.

Last year, he came back to the UK to become chief executive of NHS England. His biography while working for his American company describes his responsibilities as "leading UnitedHealth's strategy for, and engagement with, national health reform, ensuring its businesses are positioned for changes in the market and regulatory environment". He seems ideally placed to take TTIP forward.

The NHS was set up on the basis of social solidarity - health care provided to everyone free when they needed it and funded from taxes on the basis of ability to pay. It was an astonishing vision which has transformed millions of lives over its 66 year history.

It is efficient and effective and those who work in it are proud of the contribution they make to our society. But the acceptance of this trade agreement is another sign that in the UK, economic growth and profit is more important than the wellbeing of the majority of our citizens who can't afford private health care. The squeeze on benefits and the bedroom tax are attempts to make the poor pay for the bank bailouts by cutting social support.

This relentless pressure on the poor damages physical and mental health, fractures relationships and families suffer.

For the comfortably off, it might seem that the decision on September 18 is easy: preserve the status quo and stay comfortable.

But just how comfortable can you feel when children are the ones who suffer most from the stresses of poverty? How acceptable is it that a life on benefits seems to be the only future facing young people who have lost hope of ever getting a job? How comfortable can you feel when our health and social services, which provide a safety net for us all, and especially our elderly, are under threat?

The comfortably off are misjudging the future if they think playing it safe is the way to go next week. There is no status quo in our economic future. The times are changing and the only choice is whether we want to be in control of our future or are we happy to hand it over to people who have shown they care little for the weak and the poor.

The policies being pursued by the UK Government will widen inequality in our society and more and more of the middle classes will be caught on the wrong side of the divide.

Jimmy Reid's rectorial address to Glasgow University students in 1971 identified alienation as the cause of social difficulties in Scotland. He defined it as "the cry of those who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control".

If we remain in the UK after Thursday, prepare for a growing sense of alienation.