Swinney Urges Spending Cuts Rethink

8 June 2015, 08:23 | Updated: 8 June 2015, 08:24

The UK Government could scale back planned spending cuts and still meet its targets on debt and the deficit, according to Scotland's Deputy First Minister.

John Swinney will urge George Osborne to rethink "unnecessary and ideologically driven'' reductions when he meets with the Chancellor in London today.

He will call for the reversal of the £3 billion in efficiency savings announced by Mr Osborne last week, a move expected to cut around £170 million from Scotland's budget for this year.

The Chancellor has challenged the SNP to "put up or shut up'', pointing out that Holyrood already has the power to increase taxes to boost spending, with greater controls being devolved next year.

Mr Swinney said it was "impossible'' for the Scottish Government to plug the gap without hitting those already struggling under austerity.

He unveiled an analysis paper arguing that spending on public services could be substantially increased above the UK Government's current plans without the Chancellor's "Charter for Budget Responsibility'' being compromised.

The paper says this could amount to an extra £8 billion in 2016-17 and up to £36 billion in 2019-20, with a total of £93 billion of additional UK investment over the next four years.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Swinney said: "What we can show today is that the UK Government's current plans go significantly beyond what is needed to meet their own arbitrary debt and borrowing targets.

"Our analysis shows that the Chancellor could meet his fiscal mandate and still invest an additional £93 billion of public services over the next four years, compared to its current plans.

"This would provide an additional £7 billion in investment for devolved public spending in Scotland.

"I will be making the cases that the Chancellor should reverse the latest unacceptable and damaging cuts to the Scottish Government's budget and use the flexibility at his disposal to ease the scale of cuts in future years and invest in households and businesses.

"Our limited tax powers make it impossible for the Scottish Government to fill the gap being created by the Chancellor without taxing those who are already taking the brunt of the cuts.

"The cuts agenda is unnecessary and ideologically driven and we will continue to argue strongly for a moderate increase in spending on public services of 0.5% a year in real terms, between 2016-17 and 2019-20.''

Speaking earlier this week, the Chancellor said: "If we had listened to the SNP there would be a massive hole in Scotland's public finances because of the price of oil.

"We are obviously going to be hearing a lot more from SNP members in this Parliament because of their numbers.

"If there are cuts that they oppose, let me point out that the Scottish National Party in Holyrood has the power to increase taxes to increase spending.

"It has the power to increase income tax already and it is getting more powers next year to do so.

"When it comes to complaints about public expenditure, it is time for the SNP to put up or shut up.''