Labour MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy was today embroiled in a squabble with Conservative shadow chancellor George Osborne over cuts to the Scottish block grant.
Murphy called Osborne’s claims that the Scottish grant could somehow escape Westminster cuts as “bizarre and confused” and showed that “Osborne was not up to the job”.
The Conservative change in approach is seen as a reaction to demands by SNP leader Alex Salmond that Scotland’s funding for next year be safeguarded against any cuts from whichever party formed the UK Government. The First Minister has repeatedly said that the SNP will use whatever influence it has in order to protect Scottish funding.
Murphy responded to suggestions of ‘ring fencing’ by saying:
“The Tories are in effect saying that the only part of the UK that will be safe from cuts is Scotland.
“It is bizarre and confused and shows that he [Osborne] does not know what he is doing.”
The Conservatives accused the Labour MP of resorting to personal attacks.
Labour have thus far refused to confirm whether they will safeguard the Scottish grant should they win the general election.
The SNP insist that the only way to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard is by sending SNP MP’s to Westminster.
MP Stewart Hosie said:
“Now, more than ever, Scotland’s communities need local and national champions who will put their interests first.
“The SNP’s Westminster team have a strong track record of delivering on both local and national campaign. With the support of Scotland’s voters at this election we can see more local champions join the SNP group in Westminster, campaigning for local issues and arguing for Scotland’s best interests.
“The London parties have announced their intention to slash Scotland’s budget hard and fast with cuts which COSLA have said will be ‘disastrous’ for Scotland’s public services.
“At this election, it is not about who gets the keys to Downing Street but about electing strong local champions who will speak up for Scotland.”
Meanwhile, it is being reported in The Telegraph that ex Labour First Minister Jack McConnell has been accused of offering electoral advice to the Conservative party in a recent meeting with a member of David Cameron’s shadow cabinet.
Mr McConnell is alleged to have suggested that the Tories could win up to six seats if they allowed Cameron to visit Scotland as often as he could.
McConnell responded to the claims by admitting attending the meeting but insisted they only discussed his work as an unofficial ambassador on international development and conflict resolution.
Mr McConnell said of the allegations: “ It is plain ludicrous to suggest that I am or would advise the Tories on how to win seats in Scotland.”