FMQs: Scotland facing £1.5bn budget black hole

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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Nicola Sturgeon today warned that Scotland is facing a £1.5 billion budget black hole by the end of the decade as a result of the Chancellor’s spending review.

The First Minister indicated that frontline services are likely to suffer as more “asterity” looms after after George Osborne’s funding deal for Scotland unveiled yesterday.

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale rounded on the SNP leader at First Minister Questions over new oil forecasts which show that revenues are poised to sink to a new low of just £130 million this year - 60 times lower than the £7.5 billion predicted by the Nationalists in their case for independence.

But Ms Sturgeon pointed to the 6% fall in Scotland’s revenue budget - for day to day public services - set out by the Chancellor.

“On the day after Labour’s partners in the Better Together campaign, otherwise known as the Tories, announced plans to cut Scotland’s budget - in real terms - by 1.5 billion by the end of this decade, for Kezia Dugdale to stand up and talk about cuts or anything like that is breathtaking hypocrisy.”

Ms Sturgeon said that the oil and gas sector faces a “challenging time” which is why she set up a task force to look into the issue.

“Every time people hear Labour gleefully crowing about the challenges in the oil and gas sector, what they realise is how little Labour actually care about peoples’ jobs and about their livelihoods. For Labour all its about is getting one over on the SNP.”

Ms Sturgeon said that labour were “in a campaign” with the Tories during the referendum.

“I do question the motivation of a party that was happy to tell Scotland to leave its finances in the hands of George Osborne - to then have the cheek to stand up today in the Scottish Parliament and complain about cuts.

“The fact of the matter is that the choice facing Scotland today is the same as the choice has always been. Do we allow the Tories to control our finances or do we take control of our destiny in our own hands? I know what I prefer.”

But Ms Dugdale said the SNP’s failure on oil and gas means that Scotland now needs “an impartial, independent” financial watchdog like the UK Office for Budget Responsibility.

Ms Dugdale said: “Two years ago today Nicola Sturgeon published her White Paper and promised a future free from Tory austerity based on oil revenues of £8 billion a year. The SNP weren’t just a little bit wrong – their oil figures were out by more than 6,000%.

“With major new powers heading our way, Scottish politics will never be the same again. We will have the powers to make different choices and break from failed Tory austerity. The Scottish Parliament needs impartial, independent oversight of government finances. The SNP Government should back Scottish Labour’s plan for a Scottish Office for Budget Responsibility.

“Scots were let down by the SNP Government on oil and that can’t ever happen again. Nicola Sturgeon has more power than any First Minister in history. She should now be humble enough to change her ways.”