Labour and the Liberal Democrats rounded on the SNP yesterday over claims that plans to give Scots full tax powers would leave an economic blackhole.
They insisted that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had made a “stupid strategic error” after she revealed on Wednesday that her MPs would support full fiscal autonomy from next year.
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy seized on the remark when it was made during the TV election debate in Aberdeen, highlighting an Institute of Fiscal Studies estimate that Scotland would be £7.6billion worse off than under the Barnett Formula, because of falling North Sea revenues.
He continued the attack while campaigning in Cumbernauld yesterday, saying: “What we saw last night in the debate was Scotland’s first minister admitting under her plans Scotland would be £7.6billion worse off – it’s full fiscal austerity.
“We will oppose Tory austerity by the front door and we will also oppose the SNP’s austerity by the back door. We will keep the Barnett formula today, tomorrow, forever.”
Liberal Democrat Business Minister Jo Swinson also hit out at SNP plans to change the way services in Scotland are funded, claiming this could cost Scotland some £40billion over the five year parliamentary term.
She said: “Yesterday we heard Nicola Sturgeon pledge that SNP MPs would vote for full fiscal autonomy in the first year of a new parliament.
“She needs to explain why she backs a plan that would leave a £40billion black hole in Scottish finances. How on earth would that help us fund our NHS properly?”
SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie hit back, saying: “Labour are in the same place as the Tories, which is why so many people are switching to the SNP.
“They are proposing more cuts, and defending Westminster controlling over 70% of Scotland’s revenues and 85% of the welfare spending in Scotland – people in Scotland want the vow of extensive new powers delivered.”
He added: “The whole purpose of financial autonomy is having control of our employment, taxes and spending to grow our economy instead of facing Tory and Labour cuts. Labour are just trying to hide their plans for £30billion of real cuts.
“Scotland’s economy is strong – by 2020 our onshore revenues will grow by £15billion – and with more powers we could achieve more.”