The Scottish government is confirming it will abolish prescription charges next April, despite huge funding pressures ahead.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon will tell the SNP conference in Perth that the sick should not have to pay for “Labour’s economic mess”.
Prescription charges in Scotland have been gradually cut from the previous level of almost £7.
Ms Sturgeon will also commit to protecting Scottish NHS spending.
Her move comes ahead of the UK government’s Spending Review on Wednesday, which is expected to signal tough cuts to Holyrood’s budget next year.
Ms Sturgeon’s decision to stick to the SNP’s original plan on doing away with prescription charges has come at a time when some are questioning whether such universal benefits can really be paid for.
But Ms Sturgeon will tell the conference that the move will benefit 600,000 people on low incomes and thousands with long-term health problems.
“Some have argued that, in this financial climate, we should not go ahead with our plans to abolish prescription charges,” she will tell delegates.
“Times are tight and I believe, and this government believes, the last people who should be paying the price of Labour’s economic mess are the sick.”
Ms Sturgeon will also accuse Scottish Labour of “ducking and diving” on matching the SNP’s commitment on protecting health spending, adding: “At a time when our revenue budget is facing significant cash cuts, there will be no revenue cash cuts in the budget for our NHS.”
With next May’s Holyrood elections on the horizon, the deputy SNP leader will also issue a rallying call to the party faithful, saying the Nationalists had a “proud record” of their first term in government.
She will say: “We have strong leadership and a wealth of experience.
“Most importantly of all, we have a clear alternative.
“We offer the only alternative to a Labour party that wrecked our economy and a Tory-Liberal coalition whose policies will wreck our society.”
As well as Ms Sturgeon’s speech, BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor will be quizzing Finance Secretary John Swinney in a live webcast from 1100 to 1130.
The webcast, to be shown on the BBC Scotland news website, will feature questions submitted by BBC viewers, readers and listeners.
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