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South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed assurances from Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neill MSP that cross – border arrangements between hospitals in Scotland and England will continue irrespective of the result of the referendum.


In answer to a question in the Scottish parliament yesterday (Tuesday) Mr Neill condemned the scare stories of the No campaign claiming that such arrangements would cease after Independence saying:


“I make it absolutely clear that, irrespective of the result of the referendum, the cross-border arrangements between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom—and indeed the cross-border arrangements between Scotland, the rest of the United Kingdom and the European Union, which are covered by a cross-border directive—will all continue. Beyond that, we quite regularly send patients as far away as the United States if they require very specialist treatment. That will continue as well.


“It is two-way traffic. In a typical year, as well as us sending patients outwith Scotland to get specialist treatment, about 7,500 people come to Scotland for very specialist treatment that they cannot get anywhere else. I do not think that any Government representing those people will do anything to endanger the cross-border arrangements.”


Ms McAlpine welcomed Mr Neill’s comments, saying:


“The Cabinet Secretary’s assurances yesterday are welcome, particularly in Dumfries and Galloway, but not at-all surprising as similar cross-border arrangements between Independent countries already exist across Europe and indeed the world.


“It is simply common sense that these arrangements between Scotland and England will be retained after Independence.


“The real threat to health care of the people in Dumfries and Galloway is the privatisation agenda in England which will ultimately deprive the Scottish NHS of funds.


“In stark contrast, the First Minister has made a commitment to enshrine the right to free public healthcare in the written constitution of an Independent Scotland.”