Health Secretary Humza Yousaf insisted there was no more money to pay the NHS despite impending strikes.
He also said the threshold for military assistance to the ambulance service is “extremely high” due to pressures on the military.
On Saturday, the GMB union announced that Scottish Ambulance Service staff would go on strike on November 28, the first time in decades.
Nurses across the UK have also voted to strike as they push for a pay rise.
Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Yousaf said he did not believe strikes were inevitable.
Discussing the pressures on the NHS, he said: “Recovery will take time.
“We are investing money in record staffing and record investment in our health service.”
He acknowledged that vacancies among nurses were ‘far too high’ and said plans were in place to recruit more.
Mentioning the government’s recent decision to ‘reprofile’ £400million from various health services, Yousaf said: ‘I’ve run out of money’.
In September 2021, soldiers were drafted in to help drive non-emergency Scottish Ambulance Service vehicles, as well as help at Covid testing centres.
Military assistance ended in March this year.
Yousaf said discussions had taken place for months about contingency plans for the ambulance service, including with other emergency services and the Defense Ministry.
He said: “Maca (military assistance to civil authorities) would be an extremis option given that the army is currently under its own pressure.
“They rightly said that the threshold for any Maca support would be extremely high.”
The Health Secretary would not be drawn to when he expected A&E wait times performance to return to the target of 95 per cent of cases seen within four hours, but said he would be “foolish” to expect it to be this winter.
Performance against the four-hour target fell to 63.1% in the week ending October 30.
Yousaf also called the opposition “desperate”.