Labour government would preside over austerity on steroids – Swinney

John Swinney urges Sir Keir Starmer to commit to an emergency budget in the early weeks of a new administration.

Labour government would preside over austerity on steroids – Swinney Getty Images

SNP leader John Swinney has warned that a Labour government could preside over “austerity on steroids” if the party continues the Conservatives’ plans.

Labour has said it will not raise taxes and will stick to the current UK Government’s plans on borrowing and spending, Swinney said.

But the First Minister urged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who was in Greenock, Inverclyde at the same time – to commit to an emergency budget in the early weeks of a new administration that would target funding towards health and education and bring austerity “to a grinding halt”.

Spending in England on devolved areas also results in cash being sent to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Speaking during a campaign event in Glasgow, Swinney said: “What is it that the Labour Party offers?

“On austerity, the Labour Party has made it clear that there’ll no increases in income tax, no increases in corporation tax, no increases in National Insurance and no increases on VAT.

“They’ve signed up to the tight fiscal limits of the Tories, they’ve signed up to tight borrowing.

“That is austerity on steroids.”

One of the SNP’s key campaign messages, launched before Swinney took over the reins of the party, was to defeat all Tory MPs in Scotland and replace them in Downing Street.

But flanked by the SNP’s candidates in Glasgow on Friday, he warned of what comes next.

“I think there’s every likelihood that on austerity, Brexit and the cost of living, issues that are the reasons why the Tories should be removed from office, the Labour Party is going to disappoint the people of Scotland.”

He added: “We’ve got to get rid of the Tories, but in this election, we’ve got to be careful about what replaces them.

“Because in that choice, people will have to decide if they want MPs like my colleagues here who will campaign against the rape clause and the two-child limit, or Labour MPs who are quite happy to lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses.”

The choice, he said, was between the SNP who would “take Scotland’s interests right to the heart of the House of Commons”, or Labour MPs who would “be taking their orders from a London-based prime minister who is committed to Tory austerity”.

But, later, the First Minister sought to strike a more compromising tone, committing himself to working with whoever is the next occupant of Downing Street.

“I’m very happy … to work co-operatively with a United Kingdom prime minister,” he said.

“You’ve got to have someone who will reciprocate that, so I’m committing myself to do that today.”

Co-operation, he said, had to be for the benefit of people in Scotland.

In taking over the job from predecessor Humza Yousaf, Swinney sought to work more collaboratively with Holyrood’s opposition parties, using his first speech as First Minister to reach across the aisle.

But despite the General Election being called just weeks later, and parties aiming daily attacks at each other, the First Minister said he was “trying to find common ground” with parties in Holyrood.

“I certainly made it clear that my style as First Minister will be to bring people together,” he said.

“I’m a unifying figure in my party, I’m a unifying figure in the country and that’s how I want to proceed with my term as First Minister.”

He said he would be “careful” to act with “courtesy” in the election campaign.

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