PRIVATE funding of the NHS in England will cut Scotland's health budget unless Scotland votes for independence, Alex Salmond claimed today.

Ahead of a speech in Liverpool the First Minister warned that the privatisation agenda will damage health spending, even though health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Salmond, speaking to business leaders in the city, said Scotland would be a "progressive beacon" offering an alternative to austerity.

He said: "In 2011 I told an audience in Liverpool they shouldn't allow their NHS to be destroyed. But since then the process of privatisation and fragmentation of the health service has been driven through by Westminster.

"This is dreadful news for patients in England, but because Westminster holds the purse strings in Scotland, this is potentially damaging for those of us too.

"Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with strong public finances. But under the Westminster system, cuts to spending in England automatically trigger cuts in Scotland."

Mr Salmond said Scotland under independence could show an alternative way forward for the rest of the UK.

He is hoping to convince people in England, that an independent Scotland will benefit other parts of the UK as well.

He added: "We will also be a progressive beacon for those elsewhere across these islands looking for an alternative to Westminster privatisation.

"By demonstrating that a publicly-funded, publicly-run NHS is more efficient and provides a better level of patient care than a privatised service we will provide valuable evidence for those in England campaigning against the sell-off of their health service."