Budget challenge to Labour leadership


By a Newsnet reporter

Johann Lamont has been challenged to say what spending cuts she would impose on Scotland’s budget in order to meet the extra spending commitments that Labour have called for.

During the debate on this week’s budget statement, the Labour party called for hundreds of millions of pounds of additional spending on a range of projects, but at no point revealed what they wanted to cut to balance the budget as the current devolved framework demands.

Spending calls included money to pay off the debts of local authorities and housing associations; additional funding for colleges; an extra £350 million for rail and more money for housing association grants.

The total outstanding local authority debt alone stood at £11.5 billion as of March 2011, meaning that almost a third of the entire devolved budget would be required to pay off this debt as Labour proposes.

The challenge comes after Labour frontbencher James Kelly MSP was unable to say, when pressed on BBC Scotland’s Brian’s Big Debate on Friday, whether Labour would have offered any more than the 1% public sector pay rise announced in the SNP Government’s budget.

Commenting, John Mason who is the deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee said:

“Labour cannot have it both ways. If they want to spend more money on certain projects then they need to admit what it is they want to cut to pay for it.

“The limits of Scotland’s current financial powers make that a cold, hard fact and Labour cannot have any credibility on the budget unless they come clean on where they want to wield the axe.

“The fact is Labours leadership have no ideas and no vision for the future of Scotland other than wanting the Tories to keep making the decisions on Scotland’s finances.

“An independent Scotland, with those key economic powers the responsibility of Holyrood, will be able to create a wealthier and fairer society, but the Labour leadership is determined to keep those powers in the hands of a Tory Chancellor at Westminster.

“And the more Johann Lamont and her colleagues stick to this disastrous path, the more people will be persuaded to vote Yes to an independent Scotland.”