Jim Murphy hits out at SNP’s ‘austerity max’

SNP PLANS to increase Scotland’s financial powers would mean £1,400 less in public spending for every resident, according to Labour leader Jim Murphy.

Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy with Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. Picture: Neil Hanna

Mr Murphy said analysis by his party reveals the individual cost of the policy of full fiscal autonomy, under which Scotland would take control of all taxation and spending.

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has come under increased pressure on the £7.6 billion spending gap the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says Scotland would face if it adopted the policy.

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The issue dominated the three televised debates between Scotland’s political leaders last week, during which Ms Sturgeon said she would like full fiscal autonomy for Scotland “as quickly as the other parties agree to give it”.

Mr Murphy, who is due to visit FiFab Precision Steel Fabrications in Glenrothes, Fife, said the £7.6 billion gap divided by the Scottish population equates to £1426.51 less per head.

The Scottish Labour leader, who will meet apprentices and high school students, said young people would be particularly at risk by what his party has branded “full fiscal austerity”.

Mr Murphy said the policy, which would mean the end of the current Barnett formula used to distribute public money throughout the UK, would cost the constituency of Glenrothes £127 million a year in public spending.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Murphy said: “The choice at this election couldn’t be clearer - investment in the future of young Scots, and an end to austerity with Scottish Labour, or losing £1,400 per person for our schools and hospitals with Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for full fiscal autonomy.

“Nicola Sturgeon can dodge questions in television studios, but she can’t hide from the facts. Since dropping this Barnett bombshell last week, she has tried to hide from the truth, but she can’t run from revelations that the SNP’s economic plan would mean austerity max for Scotland.

“Here in Glenrothes alone, money from the Barnett formula is worth £127 million for public spending.

“The SNP’s plan would put an end to that funding. That isn’t just a number, it’s a generation of Scottish young people who will see their potential squandered.

“Scottish Labour will use our UK wide tax system to invest £1 billion in the future of Scotland’s young people - including a Scottish Job Guarantee, finding work for the 5,000 young Scots aged 18-24 who have been claiming JSA for over a year.

“The SNP’s plan for full fiscal autonomy puts the future of those 5,000 young Scots at risk, and guarantees austerity max for Scotland, as we face £7.6 billion of cuts.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Westminster’s cumulative cuts to Scotland’s budget over the next five years is estimated to be £12 billion - or some £2,300 per person.

“These are the real cuts coming down the track from all the Westminster parties, which is why Scotland needs to vote SNP so that we can stop the cuts.

“In this election voters know the real threat comes from the Labour and Tory plans to continue austerity and impose an additional £30 billion in spending cuts, which can only be stopped by a strong group of SNP MPs with the power to influence what happens at Westminster.

“The SNP’s plans to end austerity will see greater investment in jobs, public services and support for those who need it - and with greater powers we will be able to take our own decisions instead of being stuck with Labour and Tory cuts.

“When Scotland paid £400 more in tax per person last year, and over £4,000 more per person than the rest of the UK over the last five years, it is simply ridiculous for Labour to talk about taking more money away from our public services.’’

Ms Sturgeon, writing in the Independent, said Labour was “fighting the wrong battle”.

“Labour’s answer in Scotland is not to represent the social democratic values their former voters support, but to mimic the Tory austerity they wrongly believe voters in England back,” she said.

“In Scotland, the bid to stop the SNP from being in a position to have that influence has, over the past week or so, seen Labour join forces again with the other Westminster parties in a concerted attack on the concept of fiscal autonomy.

“It is a tactic that appears to risk making one of the cardinal errors of any election campaign, namely that of fighting the wrong battle, and as such is appears destined to fail. That is because, in regurgitating the same anti-independence arguments of last year’s ‘Project Fear’ by the No side in the referendum, the Westminster establishment is both misjudging the mood of the people and misunderstanding what the core of this election is about - in Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

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