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Target under fire

Brown needs to accept cuts to match deficit claims, say Tories

Keith Brown

Deficit: Keith Brown (pic: Terry Murden)

The Scottish Conservatives have warned the Scottish Government that any plans to quickly slash the deficit to 3% would mean finding savings of more than £7 billion a year. 

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said he believed it would take only three years to reduce the current black hole level of 7%, the highest in Europe. 

However, the Scottish Tories insist that based on this week’s Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, achieving that saving would mean tax rises and schools, hospitals and infrastructure cuts to the tune of £7.2bn. 

The current gap between what Scotland raises in tax and spends on public services is currently £12.6bn and the Tories maintain that reducing that from 7% to 3%, in line with Mr Brown’s suggestion, would mean a deficit level of just £5.4bn, a difference of £7.2bn. 

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “These claims could be laughed off were it not for the fact they’ve been made by the deputy leader of Scotland’s governing party. 

“Presumably this means it’s now SNP policy to seek ongoing tax hikes worth more than £7bn, or cutting public services by an equivalent amount. 

“Put simply, that means devastating cuts to schools, hospitals, councils and infrastructure – at the same time as hiking personal taxes for millions of ordinary working Scots. 

“Neither is an acceptable option, which is why the nationalists must take the threat of another independence referendum off the table. 

“No-one thought the SNP could get more fanciful and deluded than its infamous and derided White Paper. But Keith Brown is now doing exactly that.”  

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “It is now clear that the SNP’s plan for independence would mean deeper and faster cuts to Scotland’s public services.

“The SNP’s plan to leave the UK is based on a prospectus of shock austerity on Scotland twinned with ditching the pound for a separate currency.

“All of Scotland’s public services, including our NHS, would be in the SNP’s firing line to meet such draconian fiscal targets.

“The people of Scotland now have a clear choice between austerity and cuts with the SNP and the Tories, or £70 billion worth of new investment with a Labour government.

“Under Labour, the wealthiest will pay more to fund our NHS, schools and local services. And we will continue to benefit from the Barnett Formula and the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK.

Only Labour will invest in our people, our communities and industries, and shift the balance of power so that our economy and society work in the interests of the many, not the few.”

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