Sturgeon To Attack Economic Policy

Westminster's economic politics have failed "categorically and comprehensively'' and have caused "misery'' for some of the UK's most vulnerable people, Scotland's First Minister will claim today.

Nicola Sturgeon will use a speech in London to argue a different approach is needed in which "fairness and prosperity go hand in hand''.

The SNP leader fears budget cuts after May's general election could be tougher than those already imposed by the current UK Government.

But she will say that this would be "morally unjustifiable and economically unsustainable''.

The Scottish Government will "make the case for a more rational economic policy at Westminster'', Ms Sturgeon will pledge, as well as adopting a different approach north of the border.

The First Minister, who is to address an audience at University College London, will say she does not believe "any economic policy can be seen as a success when it has caused such severe anxiety and misery to so many of our most vulnerable citizens''.

She will add: "The current UK Government's economic policy has failed even on its own terms. It has failed to reduce the deficit as planned, and it has failed even more comprehensively to rebalance the economy.

"Economic policy is a means not an end; it is the means for citizens to lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives.

"The entire focus of the Westminster debate is on the deficit. Now, the deficit is hugely important. But it is a symptom of economic difficulties, not just a cause of them.

"It's simply untrue to say that we are 'all in this together'. The cuts have had a disproportionate impact on women, people with disabilities and people on low incomes. The most vulnerable are bearing the heaviest burden. This human cost is in itself too high a price to pay for current policies.''

The First Minister will argue: "The UK Government's economic policy has failed: categorically and comprehensively. And not by my reckoning, but on the UK Government's own terms.

"Perhaps most damagingly of all for the UK Government's credibility, it has failed to meet its own deficit reduction targets.

"But what the UK Government is now telling us is this: austerity hasn't worked, so we need even more of it.''

The UK Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted that by 2010 UK households will be "more heavily indebted than they were just before the financial crisis,'' Ms Sturgeon will say.

"Individuals will be deeper in debt, families will feel less secure, the economy will be less resilient.

"It is morally unjustifiable and economically unsustainable.''

Ms Sturgeon will set out how her government in Edinburgh is working to boost productivity and improve gender equality in the workplace as part of its efforts to promote economic recovery.

She is expected to say: "The Scottish Government proposes a different approach. We simply don't accept that there's a trade-off between balancing the books and having a balanced society; fairness and prosperity go hand in hand.''

The SNP leader will argue: "It is basic common sense that as a society, we will do better if we can benefit from the skill, talent and innovation of all of our people.

"After a momentous 12 months in Scotland, we will see a hugely significant 12 months across the whole of the UK. And I hope that Scotland can again exert a beneficial influence on developments here in London.

"So we will make the case for a more rational economic policy at Westminster, and we will use the powers we have in the Scottish Parliament to pursue a different approach; one based on partnership, fairness and prosperity. And that is something which will bring benefits to Scotland, and to all of the UK.''

A Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael hit out at Ms Sturgeon, saying: "The First Minister says that she will lay out an alternative to deficit reduction - and then doesn't.''

The spokeswoman added: "All the bombast in the world will not change the reality that the UK government's economic strategy is working.

"Whether Nicola Sturgeon likes it or not, this government has cut borrowing by £52 billion from the level we inherited.

"That's why the markets have regained confidence, the cost of borrowing and mortgages is at a record low, and we are vying with the United States for the strongest economic growth in the G7.

"We have achieved this despite the continued economic trouble affecting our immediate partners especially our largest trading partner - the eurozone.

"If the First Minister has something serious to say on this subject matter, now is the time to say it.

"By how much would she raise taxes, and by how much would she cut spending in the next Parliament?

"Or does she want to go back to the days of high borrowing, high mortgage costs, and an ever-bigger debt problem for the next generation to pay off?''

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