By Martin Kelly
First Minister Alex Salmond has challenged UK Minister Danny Alexander and the No campaign to confirm their commitment to austerity after the Chief Secretary to the Treasury blundered into signing all three Westminster parties up to the current coalition’s spending plans.
In his letter to the First Minister at the weekend, Mr Alexander stated that the current coalition spending plans would be in place in 2018/19.
The letter appears to commit all three pro-Union parties to the same level of austerity after the 2015 UK general election, a commitment seized on by the First Minister.
Responding to Danny Alexander’s letter, Mr Salmond said it: “leaves the Scottish electorate with little option but to conclude that anything other than a vote for independence would be a vote for continuing Conservative austerity, no matter which Westminster party wins the 2015 election”.
The letter has now prompted a series of questions from the First Minister who has asked whether the letter was accurate or another “mis-brief” from the Treasury – a reference to an admission from the Treasury that it had given inaccurate figures relating to the start-up costs of independence.
In his letter the First Minister asks:
- If the Liberal Democrats are now committed to continuing with Conservative austerity after the 2015 General Election?
- Whether Alastair Darling and Labour would be representing the coalition’s spending plans in any TV debate as Danny Alexander suggested?
- How much the parties plan on cutting from public spending, and how much Scotland’s budget faces being slashed in the event of a No vote?
There are growing fears that a No vote in the independence referendum will lead to a massive cut in Scotland’s budget.
In May a senior Labour party shadow minister confirmed A future Labour government would not undo the hugely unpopular cuts imposed by the current Tory/LibDem coalition.
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said the party is preparing to make some unpopular decisions and will not “be able to undo the cuts that the have been felt in recent years.”
Leslie’s comments followed an admission from Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls last year that a future Labour government would stick to Tory Chancellor George Osbrone’s spending plans for at least one year.
The No Nightmare