Nicola Sturgeon and SNP slammed by Anas Sarwar on Andrew Marr
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The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysed the manifestos of all three main political parties in Scotland ahead of the election on May 6, including the SNP, Conservatives and Labour. The IFS deemed all three of the parties failed to provide big spending pledges “without any serious attempt to provide costings, or to say how they would be paid for”. The SNP’s election pledge of a £6 billion spending splurge was also branded “disappointing” due to the staggering financial reality the next Government is facing as the country recovers from the devastating Covid pandemic.
Economist Paul Johnson, who is the director of IFS, warned that Scotland was already spending more than England, despite Ms Sturgeon claiming an independent nation would fare better without Westminster’s input.
He wrote on Twitter: “Scottish spending per person already about 30 percent higher than in England, because of transfer of resource from England.
“Agreement between SNP, Scottish Labour and Conservatives to maintain and extend higher benefits and social spending.”
Ms Sturgeon’s manifesto pledges include getting rid of NHS dental charges, as well as increasing free childcare to one and two-year-olds, and also free breakfasts and lunches for all primary pupils.
The SNP is also planning to drop charges for non-residential social care and exempt 18 to 21-year-olds from council tax.
However, Ms Sturgeon has said she will not be increasing income taxes, as she said the pledges can instead be funded by a 14 percent rise in the block grant from Westminster and a projected 20 percent growth in tax revenues over the next five years.
But Mr Johnson said the SNP’s promises for the NHS may not be realistic.
He said: “By far and away the biggest ticket items in the SNP and Scottish Conservative manifestos were promises to the NHS.
“Both parties pledge that they would pass on to the Scottish NHS any funding received from Westminster as a result of increases in English NHS spending (with the Conservatives also guaranteeing increases of at least 2 percent above inflation as a ‘double lock’).
“And both parties have almost certainly underestimated the cost of this pledge.
“Based on the English NHS’s long-term budget, the pledge would require an increase in funding for the Scottish NHS of around £1.5 billion by 2023–24.
“If, as seems likely, funding for the English NHS continues to increase at a similar pace, that figure would rise to £3 billion extra by 2025−26 (relative to this year).
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“Both parties would therefore almost certainly have to spend more on the NHS than they have budgeted for, in order to meet their pledges and to keep pace with demands.
“Indeed, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the SNP and Scottish Conservatives have downplayed likely increases in how much they would need to allocate to the NHS, in order to flatter the amount available for their other myriad pledges.”
Mr Johnson also shared his “disappointment” over the SNP and other parties not making a “serious attempt” to provide “comprehensive costings” ahead of the looming election.
He wrote in the IFS report: “It is also disappointing that, with the exception of the Scottish Conservatives, there is no serious attempt by the parties to provide transparent and comprehensive costings for their plans.
“And the Conservatives’ document underestimates the true cost of their flagship policy – the NHS ‘double lock’ – by at least £600 million, or more than a quarter.”
Despite the report, the SNP is on course for a landslide victory in the election, which will give Ms Sturgeon’s manifesto the green light.
The SNP also wants to hold a referendum on Scottish independence if they win a majority.
Kate Forbes, the SNP Finance Secretary, responded: “Only the SNP has a track record in office of using the Scottish Parliament’s current financial powers.
“Only the SNP has the serious plans required to drive the post-pandemic recovery which is needed.”
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