Scottish Labour blasts ‘cuts commission’ as pro-Union parties round on independence report

Posted On: 
25th May 2018

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said the SNP-backed landmark report on how an independent Scotland could operate would usher in a "pro-longed period of austerity".

Richard Leonard was among pro-UK leaders to hit out at the commission's report
Credit: 
PA Images

The Sustainable Growth Commission, launched by Nicola Sturgeon in 2016, was produced by economist and former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, alongside politicians, business leaders and academics.

Mr Leonard branded the 354-page document a “cuts commission”, while Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson hit out at the “stunning” proposal of a tax cut to attract migrants despite the SNP government having made Scotland “the highest taxed part of the UK”.

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Nicola Sturgeon said after the report was unveiled this morning that it "rightly doesn’t shy away from the challenges we face but presents ways in which those challenges can be addressed".

Among the recommendations was to keep the Pound indefinitely without a currency union, to set up a new currency only when six strict tests are met, and to create a new central bank.

It also proposed tax breaks to encourage migration to Scotland and in a major departure from the SNP's approach to the last referendum, to put North Sea oil revenues into an investment fund rather than use it for day-to-day spending.

The Scottish Labour leader said the recommendation of a five-to-10 year period of deficit reduction would lead to “a level of austerity that not even George Osborne attempted”. 

He also hit out at the proposed £5bn per year payment to the UK to service Scotland’s share of its debts and its plan to have the Bank of England continue to set interest rates.

"The people of Scotland cannot afford another wasted decade under the mantra of deficit reduction,” Mr Leonard said.

"Key arguments around currency and debt simply sum up why leaving the UK would not be in the interests of Scotland.

"The SNP suggest that a separate Scotland would pay the rest of the UK £5bn a year to hold and service our debt. That is the equivalent of the entire education and justice budgets.”

"On currency, the SNP has outlined a plan which would mean Scotland has less independence, not more.

"A separate Scotland outside of the UK seeking to use the pound is a recipe for instability and is the economics of dereliction. We would give up our say over interest rate policy, exchange rate policy and inflation.

"The plans would leave an independent Scotland as a rule taker not a rule maker."

He added: "The economic and social transformation Scotland urgently needs will not come from another referendum on leaving the UK – on which the sovereign will of the Scottish people has been clearly expressed."

'GAMBLE'

Meanwhile Ruth Davidson said Nicola Sturgeon was “damaging” Scotland, with her “fourth or fifth” attempt to push for a fresh vote on taking Scotland out of the UK.

“On independence and on Brexit, you don’t just get to keep rerunning the question cause you didn’t like the answer and that’s why I think Nicola Sturgeon has been so damaging to Scotland because this is the fourth or fifth attempt she’s tried to rerun it,” she told the BBC’s World at One.

Scotland’s Tory leader said the country’s people would not be prepared to “gamble” their future when economic questions remained unanswered.

She added: “[The report] says that in a hypothetical independent Scotland of the future they would use the currency of what would then be a foreign country without asking, without a central bank, without any backstops, then to some unspecified point in the future to move to something else, but they haven’t said what that something else would be, and crucially they haven’t told us what those steps are in between.

“I’m not entirely sure that’s enough for the people of Scotland to want to gamble their mortgage, pension, wages and future on.”

Ms Davidson said the proposal to lower taxes in a bid to make Scotland more attractive to migrants was “stunning”.

“I have been arguing for literally years against the SNP policy to whack taxes up, they’ve just done it and now today there saying for some people, not the people who currently live here, but for others we’re actually going to reduce that again.”

'COMPOUNDING CHAOS'

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, said: "The SNP's economic case for independence and their currency plans have been repackaged but not much has really changed since they were rejected in 2014.

"We should not be compounding the chaos of Brexit with the chaos of independence. Scotland should not jump from the frying pan into the fire.

"Our Parliament and Government should be focused on positive change, not another divisive referendum."