Labour pledges massive cash boost plan for Scotland - but John Swinney has a warning about it

SNP ministers have been promised an extra £320m a year if a Labour government secures the keys to Downing Street.

SNP ministers have been promised a £320 million cash boost if Labour forms the next UK government – but John Swinney has warned Sir Keir Starmer’s blueprint includes no “breakout investment in public services”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has insisted the extra funding promised to SNP ministers if Labour forms the next UK government is only the “first steps”, suggesting more money could make its way to Holyrood if the economy grows.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
The 10 key points from Labour's manifesto for Scotland and the UK

Sir Keir launched Labour’s UK manifesto on Thursday, with his suite of policies and priorities handing more than £320m a year in Barnett consequentials to Holyrood ministers, funded by closing loopholes on non-dom tax status, clamping down on tax avoidance and applying VAT and business rates to private schools.

Labour had also committed £150m of levelling up money to be handed out through the Scotland Office for anti-poverty and economic growth measures, but has confirmed it is not new funding.

With Sir Keir committing to not raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT, Labour’s plan to boost spending further rests on its aims to grow the economy – a central party of its fiscal vision – and what the party claims will stop it having to cut public spending.

The extra funding earmarked for Scotland has been triggered by Labour’s plans to increase NHS appointments – 160,000 a year in Scotland – as well as other commitments such as thousands of new expert teachers and increased teacher and headteacher training in England.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (left) speaks to SNP First Minister John Swinney (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (left) speaks to SNP First Minister John Swinney (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (left) speaks to SNP First Minister John Swinney (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

But Mr Swinney said he was sceptical over Labour’s spending plans, warning the proposal to spend £150m of anti-poverty money through the Scotland Office continuing the UK government’s levelling up agenda was not “a particularly coherent way to handle public expenditure”.

He added: “The Internal Market Act gives the UK government the ability to spend in devolved areas – it got that in the Internal Market Act. That needs to go.

"That’s incoherent and it’s damaging, put in there by the Tories to undermine devolution.”

Pressed by The Scotsman over the commitment of £320m of extra funding being pledged to be passed to his Government in Labour’s plans, Mr Swinney said: “If you look at some of the sums of money that have come out way under the Tories, there have actually been years when these sums of money have been perhaps the order of the day and we’ve had to supplement that by other measures.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireJohn Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
John Swinney. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

“It sounds to me as if it’s the continuation of the austerity approach of the Conservatives. There is no breakout investment in public services. It’s just a continuation of where the Tories left off.”

But Mr Sarwar told journalists that Sir Keir had moved to “demonstrate that we are going to be straight with the public” and “we’re not going to make promises we can’t keep”.

He added: “Every single pledge in that manifesto is one that is fully-costed, fully-funded. He’s also been really clear to say that these are just the first steps of change we want to deliver right across the country. I think that is the right approach.

“When trust in politics is so low, I think it’s right to finally have a candidate for prime minister who wants to be straight with the public and wants to deliver that journey of chance.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Mr Swinney clashed with the Scottish Labour leader at First Minister’s Questions over what the FM claimed was plans by his “bosses in London” to continue the austerity of the Conservatives at Westminster.

He added: “A Labour government has got to make £20 billion-worth of spending cuts to pick up where the Tories have left off. It will be continued austerity from Labour.”

But speaking to The Scotsman, Mr Sarwar doubled down on his party’s insistence that a Labour UK government would end austerity.

He accused the SNP of using a tactic where “big, scary numbers are projected to the public in order to create fear and drive them towards a divisive agenda”, comparing it to the promises over NHS funding during the Brexit referendum campaign.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Specifically on the suggestion from Mr Swinney that Labour will continue the Tories’ austerity agenda, Mr Sarwar insisted they were “false claims” and “desperate attempts to cling onto power and scare people”.

He added: “We are making an unequivocal commitment – there will be no austerity under a Labour government.

SNP leader John Swinney (left) and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, clashed over austerity in a BBC Debate Night election special (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Wire)SNP leader John Swinney (left) and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, clashed over austerity in a BBC Debate Night election special (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
SNP leader John Swinney (left) and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, clashed over austerity in a BBC Debate Night election special (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

"Austerity has damaged so many communities, destroyed our country and actually undermines the social and economic outcomes we want to see in our country.”

The SNP has repeatedly accused Labour and the Conservatives of seeking to usher in austerity, claiming both parties are refusing to level with the public that £18bn of spending cuts are required.

First Minister Mr Swinney and Mr Sarwar had a heated exchange on the issue during a BBC Scotland election debate earlier in the week.

The Scottish Labour leader on Thursday likened Mr Swinney’s stance to the Conservatives’ Brexit referendum claim that £350m was going to the EU each week.

Mr Sarwar continued: “He’s told two big lies in this election campaign already. He’s lied about the NHS being privatised … and the second big lie that he is telling is that somehow there will be a continuation of austerity.

“I’ve said quite clearly there’ll be no return to austerity.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Keir Starmer today said quite clearly there’ll be no return to austerity, [shadow chancellor] Rachel Reeves, when she was in Scotland last week, said clearly there’ll be no return to austerity. The UK Labour manifesto explicitly says there will be no return to austerity.”

Asked about reports claiming the Scotland Office would receive a £150m “war chest” to fight poverty, Mr Sarwar said: “If you look at where the key points of deprivation are across our country, if you look at where there are specific challenges around child poverty, that’s where we will look to strategically do interventions to support infrastructure and projects to alleviate poverty.”

This funding is “a down payment on the first steps of a Labour government, if we get the privilege of being in government”, Mr Sarwar said.

Earlier, Mr Swinney accused Labour of being a “clear and present danger to the NHS”.

The SNP leader said: “The future of the NHS is a crucial issue in this election – and Labour must use their manifesto launch to U-turn on the creeping privatisation agenda set out by [shadow health secretary] Wes Streeting, and commit to backing the SNP’s Bill to ensure the NHS is always in public hands.

“By carving up England’s NHS and – in his words – ‘holding the door wide open’ to private interests, Wes Streeting is not even hiding his intentions.

“Unless they change course, it is clear that Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting represent a clear and present danger to the NHS.”

Comments

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.