One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Miliband To Warn Of Slashed Budget
Scotland could suffer a cut of almost 10% in its budget if the Conservatives are voted back into government this May, Ed Miliband will warn today.
The Labour leader will tell party activists in Scotland that if David Cameron gets back into Downing Street, "extreme cuts'' would see Holyrood's budget reduced by £2.7 billion - with the NHS north of the border potentially losing more than £1 billion.
While he says May's election will be the "closest for a generation'', Mr Miliband will insist Scotland cannot risk voting SNP as this would help return to the Tories to power.
Mr Miliband is to address Scottish Labour's conference in Edinburgh this morning. The gathering comes at a time when the UK Labour leader is under pressure to rule out doing a deal with the SNP after the general election.
Polls continue to suggest there could be a hung parliament in May, with Labour forecast to lose seats in Scotland to Nicola Sturgeon's party, which has enjoyed a massive surge in support in the aftermath of last year's independence referendum.
Mr Miliband will warn: "Every vote cast for another party, including the SNP, makes that prospect of a Tory government more likely because every one less Labour MP makes it more likely the Tories will be the largest party.
"Scottish working families can't afford to take that risk; Scottish young people can't afford to take that risk; Scottish pensioners can't afford to take that risk; Scotland's health service cannot afford to take that risk.''
The Labour leader will claim that the Conservatives "want to take spending back to the levels last seen in the 1930s'', saying this was a time when children left school at 14 and there was no National Health Service.
He will add: "Let me tell you precisely what these extreme cuts would mean for Scotland. We now have the figures, independent figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies: the Scottish block grant is about £30 billion: the Tory cuts would mean £2.7 billion would be taken away from Scotland - that's #500 for every man, woman and child.''
Mr Miliband will go on to warn that "the scale of the reductions in spending that the Tories are planning will mean that the Scottish Government will have to make deep cuts'', adding that if these are spread evenly there would be more than £1 billion of cuts to the NHS north of the border.
The Labour leader, speaking with two months to go until the election, will go on to say: "The Tories can wreak havoc in Scotland without winning a majority. They can do it simply by being in government as the largest party. It would mean a Tory decade for Scotland: 10 years of David Cameron in Downing Street; 10 years of injustice; 10 years of unfairness; 10 years of attacking everything we hold dear in our country.
"Let's sound the alarm across Scotland about what these deep Tory cuts would mean for our NHS and public services. Let's sound the alarm across Scotland that they could do it without a majority. Let's sound the alarm across Scotland that this could happen in less than nine weeks' time. Let's sound the alarm across Scotland, defeat their austerity plan and stop a Tory decade.''
He will also use his speech to set out what Labour would seek to do in government, and will say: "We will not tolerate a country of poverty pay, of hard work not rewarded: so we will raise the minimum wage to more than n£8 an hour.
"We will not tolerate a country with Victorian working conditions in the 21st century: so we will ban the exploitation of zero-hours contracts and legislate to say that if you do regular hours you get a regular contract.
"We will not tolerate a country where the vested interests, the energy companies, rip people off: so we will freeze energy bills until 2017.
"We will not tolerate a country where banks do not serve our businesses but simply serve themselves: so we will break up the banks to ensure the banks work for our businesses again.
"We will not tolerate a country where young people spend their life on the dole: so we will tax bank bonuses and put young people back to work in every part of the UK.
"We will not tolerate a country where there is no dignity for the old: so we will raise the basic state pension, protect the winter fuel allowance for all those pensioners who need it, and the free TV licence and the bus pass.
"And we will do something a Tory government will never do: stand up to the energy companies, the pension fund companies that rip off elderly people.''
SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie MP said: "David Cameron is a massively unpopular in Scotland - but Ed Miliband is in the extraordinary position for a Labour leader of being even more unpopular in Scotland than a Tory Prime Minister.
"The reasons for this are Labour's toxic alliance with the Tories in the referendum, and convergence on Tory ground by voting with them for £30 billion more austerity cuts.
"People want Scotland to have a powerful voice at Westminster, and only a strong team of SNP MPs elected in May can achieve the change that people in Scotland want - including the alternative to austerity which Nicola Sturgeon has detailed, so that we get an economic policy focused on growth and jobs.
"On issue after issue, Labour find themselves on the same side of the argument as the Tories - which is the wrong side for the people of Scotland. Left to their own devices, Labour would not change. Only SNP MPs can achieve change - power for Scotland and the delivery of progressive policies across the UK.''
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said Scots want to know if Mr Miliband is "going to sell out his principles and do a deal with the Nationalists to get into Downing Street''.
He added: "The fact is that over the last five years, the Conservatives have protected funding on the NHS. A future Conservative government is committed to doing the same, and has already announced an extra #2 billion for this year as a downpayment on that pledge. As has happened over the last five years, that feeds directly through to Scotland's budget, and protects our public services.''
"At the same time, we will give a tax break for all by raising the personal allowance and finish the job of economic recovery.
"Contrast that with Ed Miliband's plan to bankrupt Britain, in tandem with a Nationalist party which wants to break up Britain.''
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