Salmond throws down the gauntlet with stark choice facing Scotland.
- Decade of misery caused by Labour
- Independence the only alternative
- Full fiscal autonomy interim necessity
- No council tax rises for two years
The SNP have thrown down the election gauntlet by setting out the stark choice facing Scots in next year’s Holyrood elections – a decade of Westminster cuts or the hope of independence.
Party leader and First Minister Alex Salmond said that the SNP are the only party with a real alternative to the problems currently facing Scotland. Mr Salmond acknowledged that independence will not eliminate all of the cuts but argued that it would give the Scottish government the tools to grow the economy sufficiently and reduce the cuts by half.
Speaking to the conference the First Minister said:
“The SNP is the only political party offering a solution to the problems facing our nation. It is only through independence and greater financial responsibility, that we will be able to protect the very fabric of our society.
“Friends, huge cuts are coming, and independence cannot magic them away. However, it will allow us to create the economic growth and increased revenue that will reduce the size of the problem perhaps, by half.
“Then we can protect more of things that really matter.
Mr Salmond also confirmed that until independence is achieved the SNP will continue to press for full fiscal powers to be returned to Scotland from London. The First Minister pointed to the organisations that supported the call including academics, leading businesspeople and trade unions; he also described the three London parties as ‘part of the problem’.
Mr Salmond added:
“The campaign for more financial and economic responsibility in Scotland is supported by Scots from all walks of life – in businesses big and small, in academia and the trade unions. But it is supported by no other party.
“That means they – Labour, Liberal and Tory – the Westminster parties – are part of the problem. Scotland is faced with Westminster cuts and the Westminster parties refuse to concede the power to make Scotland better.”
Council tax freeze
The SNP leader attacked Labour’s plans to raise the council tax arguing that such a move would hit families on low incomes. Mr Salmond, in a direct challenge to Iain Gray, then revealed that as well as continuing the freeze this year, pledged that the SNP would continue it for an extra year.
In a later speech to the conference SNP Depute Leader and Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon re-iterated the promise and claimed the tax freeze had helped those on low pay and pensioners. The Deputy First Minister contrasted the SNP’s freeze of the council tax with Labour’s record of increases.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“The last few years have been tough and the next few will be tougher still.
“Our action to freeze the council tax for the last three years has given real help to families, the low paid and pensioners at a time when family budgets have been squeezed.
“Labour say it’s time to end the freeze. To put council tax up again. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. The last time they had their hands on the levers of power in Scotland, they put it up by 60%. Putting up council tax is what they do.
Ms Sturgeon confirmed her party’s promise to continue with the freeze for two more years saying:
“The budget we will present to parliament in the next few weeks will make available the money to freeze the council tax next year.
“But we will go further than that. Our manifesto for the election next year will also include the commitment to put the resources in place to freeze the council tax the year after as well.
“We will act to freeze the council tax for the next two years.
“That is our pledge to the people of Scotland.
“That is our pledge. Clear and firm.”