The Scottish Parliament was set to make a sharp break from English policy on funding elderly people's long-term care this week.

First minister Henry McLeish promised that the announcement expected yesterday would be 'radical and distinctive' - but stopped short of confirming that the recommendations of the Royal Commission on LongTerm Care would be met in full.

The royal commission, chaired by Sir Stewart Sutherland, recommended that both personal and nursing care be free to residents of nursing and residential homes.

But in England, the Health and Social Care Bill will make only nursing care free - a position widely criticised by charities and elderly people's organisations.

Sir Stewart warned this week that Mr McLeish had 'marched us to the top of the hill', following widespread speculation that free personal as well as nursing care would be introduced in Scotland.

'People would take it remiss if he marched us down again.'