The Scottish National Party has accused the Scottish Executive of colluding with NHS trusts over the transfer of money meant for capital purchases into debt reduction.

The party claimed last week that over the past five years£164m has been 'stolen' from NHS equipment funds with Executive approval.

The SNP's figures are derived from answers to several parliamentary questions and indicate that the largest transfer occurred in Glasgow, where£27.3m was shifted from one budget to another between 1994-2000.

Kenneth Gibson, MSP who raised the issue, said: 'If this money had not been transferred to plug holes in health board budgets these resources alone would have ensured the replacement of much of the old, obsolete and less reliable equipment currently in use in the NHS, resulting in shorter waiting lists and better patient outcomes.

'It is a national disgrace and now [the Executive] have been caught they must now say whether they will replace the money they have taken.'

A spokesperson for the Scottish Executive said that 'capital to revenue transfers were permitted within the NHS until this April for accounting purposes with the agreement of the Executive. Since April. . . investment in new and replacement equipment must only go toward its specified purpose'.