Nicola Sturgeon denies independence would mean continued austerity

First Minister rejects claims by think tank on manifesto plans

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 8:03 am

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims the SNP’s manifesto plans could mean more austerity in an independent Scotland.

It follows comments by associate director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) David Phillips that an independent Scotland would have to “count its pennies and pounds” in at least the first decade.

According to Mr Phillips, pursuing the types of policies suggested in the party’s manifesto if Scotland was independent would mean either bigger cuts or increases in other taxes.

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Writing in The Scotsman, he said: “In the short-term at least, independence would likely necessitate more not less austerity.”

On a campaign visit to the Happy Days Nursery in Dalkeith, Ms Sturgeon said she did not accept the claim that austerity would continue.

She said: “I’ve got the greatest of respect for the IFS but I think on a number of instances there are aspects that are not properly taken account of.

“Firstly I think there is a question about applying a Westminster manifesto to an independent Scotland, not because these are not things we would want to do - we would - but because an independent Scotland would have a range of levers at our disposal to grow our economy faster that we don’t have right now.

“But of course, the Growth Commission, which the IFS talks about, recommends continued increases in spending.

“If its recommendations had been applied retrospectively over the past 10 years, we would have escaped the Westminster austerity.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “The other point I think is relevant here is that the performance of the Scottish economy and the reduction in Scotland’s deficit, that is already going better now than the Growth Commission estimated would be the case in 2021 because our onshore revenues have been rising.

“So the lesson here is that the more power Scotland has, the more of these levers of independence we have, the more we can seek to emulate the other similarly sized countries to Scotland that do so much better and grow our economy faster.

“And that’s actually what the Growth Commission didn’t factor in - that ability to grow our economy faster, which is really the essence of the economic case for independence.”

Scottish Tort finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the IFS analysis had “taken the legs out” from under the SNP’s case for independence.

“This is a humiliation for Nicola Sturgeon. The IFS has set out the cold facts - if ever she got her way, Scotland would be facing a decade long depression, with less money for the NHS, less money for nurses and the police and more cuts to services.”