The fallout of Nicola Sturgeon’s revelation the SNP would push for full fiscal autonomy as early as next year dominated the election campaign north of the border.
Jim Murphy called the first minister’s admission during the BBC Scottish leaders debate “the first genuine moment” of the battle and one Scottish Labour intended to build on.
Under full fiscal autonomy, Scotland would be responsible for raising all the revenues it spends. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has calculated it would result in a £7.6billion black hole in the government’s finances through the loss of money handed out by Westminster under the Barnett formula.
During Wednesday’s BBC debate from Aberdeen University, Ms Sturgeon said if possible SNP MPs would press for full fiscal autonomy next year.
While out campaigning in Cumbernauld yesterday Mr Murphy said Labour would oppose Tory austerity “by the front door” and SNP austerity by “back door”.
“If the SNP have their way, you would have the abolition of the UK state pension here in Scotland and the abolition of UK benefits,” he claimed.
“Full fiscal autonomy was always a nice-sounding advertising slogan in search of a policy – well, it’s found a policy now and it’s £7.6billion of cuts and the end of the UK pension system.
“Between now and polling day, no one is going to be left in any doubt that if you vote for the SNP, you are voting to opt out of the UK state pension system. That is awful news for Scottish pensioners.”
Liberal Democrat Business Minister Jo Swinson said SNP plans would cost Scotland around £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 and said: “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.”