JOHN Swinney has issued a stark warning that front-line services face years of “deeply damaging” cuts, with tens of billions of pounds set to be slashed from spending.
The Finance Secretary seized on new figures from Scottish Government economists that suggest that the SNP administration’s budget would be reduced by nearly a fifth due to “cuts from Westminster”.
However, the minister’s claims were dismissed by the UK Treasury, which insisted that the Tory-Lib Dem government has “repeatedly supported” capital infrastructure projects with hundreds of millions of pounds.
Mr Swinney, who is today due to hold talks with UK finance ministers in London over spending plans, was also accused of “misleading” the Scottish electorate over the figures to boost support for independence in the run-up to the referendum.
Senior Tory MSP Alex Johnstone defended Scotland’s funding deal from London, which stood at more than £28 billion for 2012-13, compared with £18.9bn during 2000-2001.
He said: “Any budget line cuts are ones made by John Swinney. This latest statement from him is clearly an attempt to mislead the Scottish public as part of a broader campaign to break up the UK.”
The figures set out in the latest Outlook for Scottish Expenditure suggested that the Scottish Government’s departmental expenditure limit budget would fall in real terms by nearly 18 per cent over a seven-year period from 2010-11 to 2016-17.
However, the report also forecast real terms cuts between 2009-10 and 2027-28 of up to £51bn – a third higher than the £39bn forecast last autumn – with the cutbacks accumulating year-on-year during that period.
Mr Swinney said that the report made the case for more capital spending projects to boost economic recovery, as he attacked what he claimed was Westminster’s “failure” to grow the economy.
He said: “It is further evidence that the UK government’s austerity programme is deeply damaging to Scotland, and we now know that without independence and substantial new financial powers coming to Scotland, we face years of cuts from Westminster.”
The Scottish Government said that the report reflected changes to spending plans announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement and updated forecasts for the UK economy and public finances by the Office for Budget Responsibility in November.
It also took into account the additional spending cuts now planned for beyond the current spending review period, the effects of the consequentials to the Scottish Budget announced in the Autumn Statement and the impact of revised forecasts for inflation.
However, the UK Treasury yesterday insisted that the government at Westminster had funded major infrastructure projects such as the Forth Road Crossing.
A spokeswoman said: “Only four months ago, the UK government provided an extra £300 million for capital projects in Scotland. It is for the Scottish Government to decide how to spend this money.
“We have repeatedly supported the Scottish Government with capital projects.”