The Scottish government will press ahead with plans to scrap prescription charges entirely, health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
She said cost cannot be seen as a “barrier” to healthcare, as drastic cuts loom in public spending.
The Nationalist administration has been gradually reducing the cost of prescription charges since coming to power three years ago, with a view to axing the charge altogether.
In a statement ahead of her speech to the SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon said: “I can confirm today that in April next year, as promised, prescription charges will be abolished.
“In these tough economic times we simply cannot afford to allow cost to be a barrier to those who need prescription medication.
“Healthcare should be free at the point of access for everyone - this is the founding principle of the NHS.
“This policy has proved to be a success year after year by helping even more patients, particularly those with long term conditions and who require the greatest number of prescription items.”
It comes despite finance secretary John Swinney confirming earlier this week that the Scottish Budget is expected to fall by £1.1 billion next year, as part of drastic cuts to UK spending being announced by George Osborne next week.
The cost of a single item prescription has come down from £6.85 when the SNP took power in 2007 to £3 this year. The government wants to ditch this charge completely in next year’s Budget.
Scots with long-term conditions who buy annual pre-payment certificates (PPCs) have saved a total of £180 each since the reduction in costs was introduced, the government says.