By Martin Kelly
Finance Secretary John Swinney has set out the Scottish Government’s alternative to what he has described as continued Westminster austerity if Scots vote No.
The SNP has warned that a No vote would hand Scotland a ‘double-whammy’ of continued austerity cutbacks and the slashing of Scotland’s budget.
If Scots vote Yes in the referendum in September, Mr Swinney has set out plans to invest an additional £1.2 billion in 2017/18 and £2.4 billion in 2018/19 compared to plans for continued austerity at Westminster.
The additional resources would boost jobs and investment, support the most vulnerable in society and bring about a transformation in childcare – but, say the SNP, will only be possible with the full responsibility for tax and spending that comes with a Yes vote.
A No vote, said Mr Swinney, would mean Scotland loses out on this additional investment while also facing the prospect of a £4 billion budget cut as Westminster parties seek to replace the Barnett Formula.
Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee last month, Professor David Heald – a House of Commons Treasury Adviser for 20 years – made clear that there would be “big pressure” to change the Barnett Formula in the event of a No vote and added that “when people talk about the reform of the Barnett formula it usually means that Scotland should get less public spending.”
Scrapping the Barnett Formula was one of the recommendations of the Lib Dem’s commission on further powers while senior Labour figures including Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith have all recently called for it to be scrapped.
Commenting, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn said:
“The plans set out today are a clear and coherent alternative to the years of mindless austerity that Westminster has in store – but they also underline the fact that only a Yes vote will protect Scotland’s public finances.
“As well as Scotland suffering our share of further cuts and austerity at Westminster, a No vote would also see Scotland hit by an additional £4 billion cut to our public finances as Westminster politicians rush to scrap the Barnett Formula – a funding cut double-whammy to Scotland’s budget.
“A cut of that magnitude could only put jobs at risk and have a devastating impact on Scotland’s economy.
“The expert evidence heard by the Scottish Parliament last month made it abundantly clear that a cut to Scotland’s budget is what Westminster has in store for us in the event of a No vote.
“With a Yes vote we can avoid these billions of pounds of Westminster cuts and use the responsibility for tax and spending decisions that we will gain to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country.
“With the powers of an independent Scotland we will be able to set our own course and use Scotland’s vast resources to support jobs, do more to help the most vulnerable in our society and spark a revolution in childcare that will transform Scotland’s labour market. That is the brighter future for our country which only a Yes vote in September will secure.”