NICOLA Sturgeon has committed her MPs to bringing forward legislation that will stop the health service being sold off to Donald Trump.

The SNP leader, who is launching her party’s election campaign today, says her manifesto will include a new NHS Protection Bill which will have the explicit purpose of preventing any future government using the health service as a bargaining chip in any future, post-Brexit trade deal.

The NHS has been a key area in the early days of the election campaign in England and Wales - though not so much in Scotland, where it’s devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

At a press conference in June this year, Trump panicked many in the UK when he told reporters: “When you’re dealing with trade everything is on the table, so the NHS or anything else, or a lot more than that.”

Though in an interview with Nigel Farage, Trump appeared to row back, saying: “It’s not for us to have anything to do with your healthcare system.”

However, a recent edition of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme claimed a bilateral trade deal could see the end of drug price caps and which would lead to the NHS paying substantially more for the medication it buys from companies in the US. Labour have claimed this could add £500m a week to the NHS’s drugs bill.

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Speaking ahead of today’s campaign launch, Sturgeon said:“A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit and to give people in the Scotland the chance to choose a better future as an independent country so we never have to worry about our NHS being sold off by a Westminster government.

“The NHS in Scotland is run in Scotland, for Scotland and under the SNP it will always be in public hands. Our NHS is not for sale at any price.

“And while the Scottish Parliament has control of health policy, we cannot currently stop Westminster signing away that protection in a trade deal, or entering agreements that dramatically push up drug prices or risk our public services, including the NHS.

Boris Johnson has been very clear about his desire for a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump – and no one should underestimate the threat which that poses.

“So in order to deal with that immediate threat from the Tories’ post-Brexit plans the SNP will bring forward a bill that would protect the NHS across the whole of the UK from ever being harmed by a Tory-Trump trade deal.

“Our NHS is there to care for and protect us – now it’s our turn to stand up and protect the NHS.

“All parties say they oppose including the NHS in trade deals – so I challenge every party to today commit to backing this bill, and stopping the Tories trading our NHS for trade deals with Donald Trump.”

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister’s remarks came as Johnson made his first election visit to Scotland.

Speaking to reporters at a distillery near Elgin, with the doors closed to the public, the Prime Minister ruled out ever allowing another Scottish independence referendum.

Asked about the SNP leader’s comment that he would find the case for allowing another independence referendum “irresistible”, Johnson insisted that Scots were promised the 2014 vote was a “once-in-a-generation thing”.

On whether he could give a cast-iron pledge to voters to not agree to another referendum, he said: “Absolutely, there is no case whatever, because people were promised in 2014 – absolutely clearly – that it would be a once-in-a-generation event and I see no reason why we should go back on that pledge.”

Reacting to Labour’s statement that they would not do any deals with the SNP, Johnson said: “Pull the other one - it’s got bells on.

“It’s perfectly obvious that Jeremy Corbyn is going to rely on the SNP to get him into power and to do that he’s done a shady deal to have a second referendum.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford described Johnson’s stance as “undemocratic and ultimately untenable”.

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He said: “The simple fact is that the SNP already have a cast-iron mandate for a referendum and the Scottish people want the chance to have their say.

“With support for independence on the rise, the Tories sound rattled and are becoming increasingly desperate.

Johnson also said he had “interceded” with Trump to get new US whisky tariffs dropped.

He said: “You know why this happened, why they put a tariff on Scotch whisky? It’s because the EU Commission decided to put a tariff on bourbon so the Americans automatically retaliated by hitting whisky.

“It was cynically triggered by the EU Commission because they knew that the Americans will respond in that way.

“Once we come out of the EU, once we get Brexit done, those tariffs will no longer apply to this country. But we’re hoping to get rid of them even sooner than that, and I’ve certainly asked the president to lift them.”

Johnson was also asked about Ross Thomson, who had been his leadership campaign manager in Scotland and who decided to quit the Aberdeen South contest earlier this week after being accused of groping the Labour MP Paul Sweeney.

Johnson said the Tory MP had “obviously taken the right decision”