JOHN Swinney has urged the Chancellor to ditch his “fundamentally flawed” economic policy and call an end to “deep spending cuts”.
The Deputy First Minister also demanded George Osborne use his pre-election Budget to bring in a package of measures to help the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran also joined in demands for Mr Osborne to take action in the wake of the “emergency in the North Sea”, where plunging oil prices have seen firms cut staff.
Holyrood ministers have been urging the UK Government to reverse previous hikes in the supplementary charge, which is paid by the sector.
In addition they want to see an investment allowance brought in and the creation of new tax credits for exploration, in a bid to increase activity in the North Sea.
Mr Swinney hit out at the Chancellor’s management of the economy, saying it was “fundamentally flawed and is damaging Scotland’s recovery”.
The Deputy First Minister said: “Despite the deep spending cuts we have seen, the Chancellor has not achieved the deficit reduction targets he set himself in his first budget in 2010.
“Between 2009/10 and 2014/15, Scotland’s budget has fallen by around 11% in real terms, within this capital expenditure has fallen by around 34%.
“This means our budget has been cut by a staggering £3.5 billion in real terms since 2009/10.
“And it doesn’t stop there. Scotland’s cumulative share of the cuts to day-to-day public spending over the five years to 2019-20 is forecast to be worth around £14.5 billion compared to 2014/15 levels.”
He added: “In addition to our proposals on austerity, the Budget must also deliver a permanent shift to a more competitive and predictable north sea oil tax regime, which will allow investors to shift their focus away from fiscal risk and towards the significant investment opportunities that remain in the North Sea.”
Ms Davidson also called on the Chancellor to deliver for the oil and gas industry, saying: “We are facing an emergency in the North Sea, and that has to be reflected in the budget.
“I’ve spoken to the Chancellor about this and he fully understands exactly what’s at stake, and precisely what’s needed to secure the North Sea’s future.”
She added: “We need to send out a major signal that the North Sea is open for business. With moves to secure its future, we can spur on investment and make sure this vital industry has the confident future the local economy and the wider UK needs it to.”
Meanwhile Ms Curran said: “Scotland’s vital industries need more support today. If the Chancellor doesn’t take action to support the oil and gas sector, Labour will in our first budget after the election.
“Hundreds of jobs have already been lost in the North Sea. We need to see urgent action to improve the tax incentives for North Sea oil investment.”
She said the Chancellor needed to deliver a “Budget for working people across Scotland” but added: “George Osborne has had five years in charge and he’s failed the tests he set himself.
“People are worse off now than they were in 2010, thousands have suffered because of the Tories’ cruel cuts and now he wants to take us back to 1930s levels of spending, before there was even an NHS. This would mean £2.7 billion taken out of Scotland’s budget. Labour will end Tory austerity.”
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