LABOUR leader Ed Miliband will today intensify his party’s warning about the consequences of a surge in SNP support at May’s general election, which he says would allow the Conservatives to remain in power and make “extreme cuts”.
In his speech to Scottish Labour’s conference in Edinburgh, Mr Miliband will warn that a vote for the SNP would lead to £1 billion cuts for Scotland’s NHS, that a large block of Nationalist MPs at Westminster would be powerless to prevent.
Tory cuts would mean £2.7bn would be taken away from Scotland – that’s £500 for every man, woman and childEd Miliband
Mr Miliband has so far he resisted pressure from Scottish Labour MPs to kill off speculation about the prospect of a deal with the SNP, which is poised to make sweeping gains on 7 May.
However, he will today seek to pour cold water over suggestions that a “progressive alliance” of Labour and the SNP could keep Mr Cameron out of power and will claim that the Conservatives could impose cuts on Scotland even as a minority government.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed that the SNP would not prop-up a minority Conservative government at Westminster, but suggested the party would be prepared to support Labour in key Commons votes in exchange for concessions such as the scrapping of Trident and an end to austerity.
Mr Miliband’s speech comes just days after shadow foreign secretary and election chief Douglas Alexander was told at a meeting of 30 of the 41 Scottish Labour MPs to relay the message to the party leader that he needs to rule out such an arrangement.
The Labour leader will warn that a bulked-up SNP in the Commons could not be relied upon to “defeat the Conservatives’ failing austerity plan”, which he claims would lead to Scotland’s block grant being reduced by £2.7bn and a knock-on effect of £1bn cuts to the NHS north of the Border.
He says: “We now have the figures, independent figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies: the Scottish block grant is about £30bn: the Tory cuts would mean £2.7bn would be taken away from Scotland – that’s £500 for every man, woman and child.
“The Tories can wreak havoc in Scotland without winning a majority. They can do it simply by being in government as the largest party.
“It would mean a Tory decade for Scotland: ten years of David Cameron in Downing Street; ten years of injustice; ten years of unfairness; ten years of attacking everything we hold dear in our country.”
Mr Miliband will set out what he says would be a knock-on effect of NHS privatisation south of the Border, with the loss of thousands of nurses and GPs to Scotland’s NHS.
He says: “The scale of the reductions in spending that the Tories are planning will mean that the Scottish Government will have to make deep cuts.
“If the cuts are spread evenly, it would mean over £1bn of cuts to the NHS. This is the equivalent of 15,500 nurses and 3,500 GPs.”
However, Mr Miliband continued to face calls from Labour figures to rule-out the prospect of a power-sharing deal with the SNP if the election produces an indecisive outcome.
Former Labour minister Brian Wilson said Mr Miliband should use part of his conference speech to rule out the prospect of a pact with the SNP to provide “clarity” ahead of the election. He said: “The ambiguity is confusing and allows them [the SNP] to promote the mirage of some Labour-SNP coalition.
“I’d be pleased to hear him rule it out just for clarity. He’d be ruling out something which there’s absolutely no prospect of, as the SNP would never support a Labour government.”
Meanwhile, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie, hitting back at Mr Miliband’s claims, said: “People want Scotland to have a powerful voice at Westminster, and only a strong team of SNP MPs elected in May can achieve the change that people in Scotland want – including the alternative to austerity which Nicola Sturgeon has detailed, so that we get an economic policy focused on growth and jobs.
“On issue after issue, Labour find themselves on the same side of the argument as the Tories – which is the wrong side for the people of Scotland. Left to their own devices, Labour would not change.
“Only SNP MPs can achieve change – power for Scotland and the delivery of progressive policies across the UK.”
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