Scotland’s Health Care System Becomes Key Referendum Issue

TIME

Britons are fiercely protective of their country’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS). A 2013 poll showed that, for many, it was a bigger source of pride than the armed forces or the Royal family. It is no surprise then that the future of the 66-year-old NHS has emerged as a major political flashpoint in the Scottish independence debate.

The pro-independence Yes campaign led by Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party (SNP) claims that Westminster is moving toward healthcare privatization, which “would mean automatic cuts for Scotland’s budget.” Pro-union leaders like former British finance minister Alistair Darling, who is leading the Better Together anti-independence campaign, say the Scottish nationalists are “scaremongering.” Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, another unionist, has vowed to “nail the SNP lies” about the potential privatization of the NHS.

Anti-independence "Better Together" campaigners hold placards outside New Victoria hospital in Glasgow on Sept. 16, 2014.Anti-independence “Better Together” campaigners hold placards outside New Victoria hospital in Glasgow on Sept. 16, 2014.Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

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