THE National Health Service has been brought to the forefront of the Independence Referendum.

The Yes Campaign has articulated that only an independent Scotland could protect the NHS against a future Westminster agenda of cuts and increased levels of privatisation.

For their part, the No Campaign has highlighted that health is a devolved matter and fully under the control of the Scottish government.

They argue that the NHS discussion is merely an attempt to deflect attention away from the currency debate.

I'm sure that this is a debate that will run for some time, and certainly for the next few weeks.

However, I was very struck by another story relating to the NHS and one which causes me much more concern.

A court, fined Ayrshire and Arran Health Board, £50,000 for neglect.

The fine, related to the case of a former teacher, Nicola Black.

Nicola took her own life in an Ayrshire hospital.

She did so, after going to Arran and sending text messages saying she was going to kill herself.

She was discovered, after taking an overdose, and was airlifted to hospital.

Despite all the obvious signs, she was not classified as a suicide risk.

Tragically, Nicola hanged herself while staff sat outside in a corridor.

Nicola's case is symptomatic of the failings of our NHS, in Scotland.

There is too much bureaucracy, too many layers of management and too many health boards.

Health boards are largely unaccountable and there is too little cohesive strategy and direction.

Rather than kicking the NHS around as a political football in the Independence Referendum, I would much rather see a political will, to fix its failings.

The NHS remains a uniquely powerful engine of social justice.

Spare us the football, and let's see a long-term political strategy, which is affordable and sustainable - to preserve it.

THE well-publicised, recent spate of attacks against women, in Glasgow city centre and beyond, is very worrying.

The organisers of one self defence class, in the East End of the city, say they have experienced a sixfold increase, in women signing up for their classes.

Of those women who attended classes, some 91% have either experienced abuse, or have fears about being attacked.

The classes are designed to teach women how to adequately protect themselves, both on the street and in the home.

It is evident, that both the police and the courts, need to act decisively, to address this trend.

While it is welcome that women who need this form of support, can receive it, it is a sad indictment on our society, that they have to.

In truth, it is an assault on the dignity of us all.

ANOTHER issue, another row in the Independence Referendum. This time the row relates to the future of the BBC.

The former director-general of the BBC, Lord Birt, says the SNP white paper assertion is wrong.

He says the assumptions about having the same level of programming, and a programme-swapping, joint-venture is make-believe.

In addition, he argues that we would have to pay to get the BBC.

I'm not sure about this.

I spend a great deal of time in Ireland and I can access the BBC, through both terrestrial channels and through Sky.

I do, however, harbour some reservations about the possible loss of the BBC, and it's potential replacement in an Independent Scotland, with the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation or SBC.

The notion of a state broadcaster, which could, potentially, either be controlled or influenced by politicians, of whatever persuasion, isn't a very pleasant proposition.

A free and independent public broadcaster is as essential to a strong democracy, as a free press. We need both.

A REPORT from the ­Economic and Social Research Council, makes rather disturbing reading.

The report highlights that one million Scots cannot afford adequate housing and that a quarter of a million, are not properly fed.

The percentage of households living in poverty has increased from 14% to 33%, in the last 30 years.

The gap between rich and poor has never been wider, and it continues to widen.

Successive governments, at both Westminster and Holyrood, have failed to adequately tackle the issue of deprivation.

As expected, more than a dozen wards in Glasgow appear in the poverty hotspots.

Helping the poor out of poverty, does not appear to be a political priority. It should be. Merely throwing more money at this problem, hasn't solved it.

We need to change the culture of dependency, a process that may take decades.

We need to use our imagination and develop new solutions, as the old ones, simply haven't worked.

Our society needs to be fairer and our country will only remain rich through that which we give, and poor through that which we refuse.