Thursday, 29 April 2010




SNP Leader Alex Salmond today set out an alternative vision for Scotland in a keynote speech on the economy.

Joined by the SNP’s economy team of Finance Secretary John Swinney and Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie at the Point Hotel in Edinburgh, Mr Salmond put forward the steps Scotland needs to take to ensuring future public spending and to fill the gap left by London cuts.

Mr Salmond was responding to a briefing by the Scottish Government’s Chief Economist earlier this month which estimated a reduction in public spending in Scotland of £25 billion over the next 13 years and setting out the SNP’s position ahead of tonight’s election leaders’ debate on the economy.

1) cut the things that matter least, so we can protect those that matter most.

2) to match our achievements on efficiencies over the past 3 years, and deliver a second phase of 2% annual efficiency savings for the next 3 years

3) higher levels of economic growth and the increased growth that would be generated through fiscal autonomy

Mr Salmond will also set out the additional growth that could come with Independence.

Speaking at the Point Hotel, Mr Salmond said:

“Last week the Scottish Government published a definitive account of future spending. The Office of the Chief Economic Adviser, taking what we know from this year's budget and independent forecasts, highlighted a range of cuts between £22 billion and £35 billion over the next 15 years.

“A cut that in its central assumptions, based on Budget 2010, would see a £25 billion reduction in Scottish spending and a £250 billion cut across Whitehall up to 2022-23.

“And this week, these figures were totally confirmed by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. They told us that the London parties’ proposals would require a level of cuts not seen since the 1970's. Cuts, to borrow Alistair Darling’s phrase, that are 'deeper and tougher' than under Margaret Thatcher.

“I call this the Iceberg Election because the London parties have been determined to hide the full nature of their cuts agenda.

“They have made visible only a fraction of their plans, leaving out billions of pounds of additional cuts. And like an iceberg, it is the enormous bit that remains unseen that poses the greatest risk and will cause the most damage.”

Looking ahead to the debate on the economy tonight, Mr Salmond said:

“Tonight the leaders of the London parties face each other in a debate on the economy. The truth about cuts should be central to that debate.

“It is their opportunity to come clean.

“But throughout this campaign cuts have been their shared secret. Their joint cover-up.

“It is the question they do not want to answer.

“And tonight, who is going to ask the question? Who will cut through the fog of consensus?”

Setting out three clear steps the SNP will take to fill the spending gap, Mr Salmond said:

“We have a £25 billion spending gap – a cut in our budget from London that threatens jobs, recovery and so many of the public service we hold dear.

“The first step in filling that gap is to cut the things that matter least, so we can protect those that matter most.

“Already in this campaign we have listed the many projects we think should face the spending axe first.

“The £100 billion Trident programme and its replacement, the remnants of the ID card system and the deep depository for nuclear waste. We can cut the £100 million House of Lords and the near £10 million Scotland Office.

“Over the next 15 years, the Scottish share of our cuts alternative would see £5 billion cut from these things – the things that don't matter at all.

“I have no doubt Scots would rather see our taxes spent on our hospitals schools and police than on nuclear bombs.

“Over these past three years the Scottish government has set an efficiency target of 2% each year or 6% over the period. Last year we exceeded that target, delivering an additional £300 million for re-investment in the frontline.

“Indeed we have delivered in one year what it has taken the UK two years to match.

“So the second step is to match our achievements on efficiencies over the past 3 years, and deliver a second phase of 2% annual efficiency savings for the next 3 years.

“And the third and crucial element to our plan is higher levels of economic growth.

“The present borrowing gap is the product of lost output in the economy. That is what has sent borrowing soaring to unprecedented levels. Similarly the way to close the gap is to seek a growth strategy which will recover as much as possible of that lost prosperity.

“So alongside a strategy for cuts on things that matter least and realistic efficiency savings, Scotland needs a strategy for growth.

“Earlier this month Professors Hughes Hallett and Scott published a paper setting out a detailed proposal for Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland. At the centre of that paper was the assessment that fiscal autonomy could significantly raise the level of Scotland's growth.

“They suggested that the growth boost could be as much as 2.5 per cent per year, and showed the dramatic effect that this growth could have on the economy and public finances over a five-year period.

“In fact an increase in growth of just 1% per annum would fill the remaining £10 billion spending gap. Fiscal Autonomy would see our spending, not only protected in the short term, but able to return much earlier to real terms growth.

“And that growth would mean, instead of 13 years and £25 billion of cuts, Scotland would see additional revenues of £13 billion - additional investment in jobs and our communities.”

Looking ahead to independence, Mr Salmond added:

“With the full flexibility of independence, with all the economic levers in our own hands, there is much more we can achieve.

“These benefits of independence would allow us to maintain the higher levels of growth delivered first through Fiscal autonomy. Scotland's economy would continue to grow above previous trend levels, delivering a further £11 billion of new resources – money we can re-invest in jobs and our communities, in public services and business growth.

“The SNP was the first party to set out the full scale of the cuts our nation faces in the years ahead.

“And today we are the only party to say how we can address that spending gap – how we can protect Scotland from the cuts threatened by all three London parties.

“To say that we can find an alternative vision to replace the Westminster decade of despair.

“Politics – real politics – depends on real choices.

“Choosing to spend on things that matter and sweeping away things that don’t.

“Choosing to have a sustained and proven strategy of public sector efficiencies rather than a panic driven slash and burn.

“Choosing to gain the levers of economic management to shift the rate of growth in Scotland to lead to a new prosperity.

“Each of these three steps can be brought closer by a strong team of SNP MPs in the House of Commons. The political position is now as redolent with opportunity just as the economic position is one of unprecedented challenge.

“Tonight the London leaders will do all they can to avoid talking about the real cuts they all plan.

“But their secret is out.

“Their plans mean a decade and more of despair.

“But there is another way and that path is one of hope and opportunity.

“With SNP MPs as local and national champions, we can protect Scottish jobs and Scotland's public services.

“And above all free our nation to flourish.”

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