Prescription charges will fall again in April after SNP proposals to cut the costs to £3 and to scrap them completely next year won Holyrood backing.
The move which will support 600,000 people was opposed by the Lib Dems and Conservatives. Despite claiming to support the reduction Labour later voted against funding for the package.
Charges for ordinary prescriptions will fall to £3 from the beginning of April with prepayment certificates falling to £10 for a three month prescription.
SNP health Minister Shona Robison said:
“We’re committed to scrapping prescription charges and removing this tax on ill-health, which hits those on low incomes hardest. We want our national health service to be restored to its founding principles – free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need, not ability to pay.
“We’ve already made huge progress – reducing charges from 6.85 pounds in April 2008 to 3 pounds from April, with parliamentary approval – and next year will move to abolish this arbitrary tax altogether.
“With Scotland’s record of ill-health and our appalling health inequalities, it’s vital that we do all we can to help people get the health help they need – not put further financial hurdles in their way.”
Former GP Dr Ian McKee backed the move:
“I am astonished other parties can oppose this essential help for people across the country. As a GP I saw too many people fail to claim their prescriptions because they couldn’t afford them.
“It is a real contrast that while the SNP is cutting prescription charges Labour are back tracking on promises made to cut costs in England and the Tories and Lib Dems are looking to put this tax on ill health back up not down.”