NICOLA Sturgeon is facing growing pressure to state whether the SNP will push for full fiscal autonomy in the next parliament, as Labour stepped up its claims the Nationalist plan would lead to £7.6 billion of cuts.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale demanded to know whether the SNP would seek to force a Commons vote on the full devolution of tax and welfare powers after the General Election, as she clashed with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s questions.
The row came as former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown warned last night that SNP spending plans would ‘break the hearts of the poor’ and that not one pensioner, disabled person or unemployed person would be better off under the party’s arrangements.
Ms Dugdale said the full fiscal autonomy would be a ‘disaster’ for front-line services in Scotland, with deep cuts to the NHS and schools, as she called on Ms Sturgeon to set out a timetable for delivering such a package of devolution.
Labour has pledged to bring forward a home rule bill within 100 days of taking office if it wins next month’s General Election. The SNP – poised to win a significant number of Scottish seats according to opinion polls – says ‘real powers’ for the Scottish Parliament would be one of its demands at Westminster.
Ms Dugdale called on Ms Sturgeon to clarify whether the SNP would table amendments to deliver full autonomy within the next five-year parliament at Westminster.
She said: “Can the First Minister confirm whether her MPs will table amendments to this bill to legislate for full fiscal autonomy within the UK?”
The Labour MSP called on Ms Sturgeon to have the ‘backbone to push for the full fiscal autonomy within the UK she says she believes in’ and the ‘guts to admit [full fiscal autonomy] would be a disaster for Scotland’s public services’.
However, Ms Sturgeon, hitting back, said most Scots knew Labour would pursue ‘further austerity’ after the election.
Mr Brown, in a speech in Kirkcaldy in Fife last night, attacked the SNP as the ‘Sort Nothing Party’ and accused the Nationalists of being ‘complicit in the Tory spending sell-out of the people of Scotland’.