US businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump paid tribute to Scotland’s NHS during a debate between the top ten candidates vying to win the Republican nomination for president.

During a question on US healthcare, Trump said President Obama’s Affordable Care Act had been a disaster and argued for a single-payer system of healthcare.

Trump said: “As far as single-payer, it works in Canada, works incredibly well in Scotland. Could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.”

Trump then went on to say: “What I would like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state” suggesting one large private healthcare provider rather than the state provided NHS used by the majority of Scots.

The answer put the businessman at odds with the rest of the candidates.

Trump seemed to be the centre of attention during the debate. Partly because, unlike other candidates he knows how to work TV, but also because the other nine were frequently critical of Trump’s positions, which, under the rules of the debate allowed him more time to rebut those criticisms.

Seventeen candidates are in the race to win the Republican nomination. The top ten, according to polling, including Trump, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, took part in the main debate. The other seven, had an earlier meeting, in the so-called Happy Hour debate.

Dr Jan Halper-Hayes, who is the chairman of the Republicans Abroad UK chapter, said the debates were dominated by three issues: immigration, de-funding planned parenthood, and the ongoing war against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

“Quite a few of the candidates believe we need to get in there, contain it and we need some boots on the ground,” she said. “[Thursday] was one year to the day when we started bombing and Daesh is continuing to grow.”

Halper-Hayes continued: “The economy did not come up really very much. And of course that is one of the top issues of concern to all Americans. The economy and jobs.” As the chairman on the Republicans Abroad UK, Halper-Hayes refused to be drawn on which of the candidates she would back, but said the debate, far from showing a divided party, showed the Republicans were in rude health.

“The Republicans have an incredibly deep bench,” she said. “The Liberal media wants to make it out as if they’re fighting but the fact of the matter is they all basically agree on the same issue. They’re just trying to explain why they’re better to deal with the issues than the other guy.”

Most pundits reviewing the debate agreed that there were no clear winners from the top ten.

Nate Cohn in the New York Times said: “I doubt any of them did so well as to earn the media attention or grassroots energy necessary to move from the middle to the top of the pack.

John Nolte, on the right wing news site, Breitbart, said the whole party had won: “If you’ve already given your heart over to one of the Republican candidates and you’re looking at the debate through that prism, I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Nolte went on: “All I’m saying is that if for just a moment you drop the prism and take a 30,000 foot view, regardless of how well or poorly your pick did last night, there is a lot to feel good about.”

There was, however, some consenus that Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, had won the Happy Hour debate. As the only winner from the day’s activities, she could find herself gaining more and more support.

A recent poll suggested that the race for the White House in 2016 could be tight. Moody’s Analytics predicting the Democratic presidential nominee will capture 270 electoral votes in 2016, edging out the Republican nominee’s total of 268.