Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say whether she will still be pressing for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland.
The first minister appears to be back pedaling as for the past few months she and SNP ministers and officials have called for Scotland to raise all the taxes it spends.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has pointed out that breaking the link with the Barnett formula, which is used to allocate Westminster funds to the devolved administrations, would create a £7.6billion black hole in Scotland’s finances.
The SNP believes it will hold the balance of power in the Commons after May and will be able to force concessions from any minority government.
Labour had pledged to bring forward a home rule Bill within 100 days of taking office if it wins the general election.
Yesterday Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called on Ms Sturgeon to be straight with voters over whether the SNP would push for full fiscal autonomy to be included in the legislation.
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would be happy to support any bill the transfers powers from Westminster to Holyrood, and its MPs will seek to strengthen any Labour or Conservative bill.
“The SNP stands for independence, I don’t think that is any secret, and yes, we stand short of independence for maximum powers for this parliament, and that is what we will argue for,” she said.
Ms Dugdale said the first minister should have the “guts” to admit that full fiscal autonomy would be a disaster for Scottish public services.
“She can’t bring herself to say the words full fiscal autonomy – it defies belief,” she said.
“It seems the SNP are developing a bad habit of concealing their plans for even more austerity on the people of Scotland because we know that full fiscal autonomy would impose an extra £7.6billion worth of cuts in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “The only cuts on the horizon for Scotland are the £30billion cuts that the Tories have proposed and Labour have signed up to. Scotland’s share of that £30billion cut would be £2.4billion.”
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon refused to confirm if the SNP would table any amendments to the Labour home rule bill seeking full fiscal autonomy.
He just repeated the first minister’s position, stating: “We would seek maximise powers for the Scottish Parliament,” he said.
Last month Ms Sturgeon insisted that increasing UK departmental spending each year by 0.5% would result in £180billion to grow the economy by 2020. Yesterday Ms Sturgeon reduced the figure by £40billion.