John Swinney presses Labour to explain where £18bn cuts will come from

First Minister of Scotland John Swinney has urged Labour to explain where £18 billion in cuts predicted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) will come from.

In a letter to Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Swinney urged the Labour leader to “be open with voters and admit where the axe will fall under the Labour Party’s plan for £18 billion cuts to public services”.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner failed to answer the same question during the BBC leaders’ debate on Friday.

The IFS said there is a “conspiracy of silence” between Labour and the Tories over details and warned of around £18 billion of “sharp cuts”.

In the letter, Mr Swinney said £18 billion of cuts would be a “wrecking ball to public services”.

The letter read: “It is the equivalent of cutting 130,000 nurses, 150,000 teachers and 160,000 police officers.”

SNP leader Mr Swinney described Labour’s intentions as “planning to take the axe to public services as a result of being wedded to Tory fiscal rules and a growth-destroying Brexit”.

He added: “That is vital money taken away from Scotland’s public services – meaning less money available for the NHS and schools, less money to tackle poverty, and less money to help families with the cost of living.

“Voters have a right to know where the axe would fall under the Labour Party’s plans to impose another decade of cuts.”

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

It branded the proposed cuts “devastating for Scotland and services across the UK”.

The letter added: “These Westminster cuts will be made even worse because the Labour Party also wants to continue imposing a hard Brexit, which has removed Scotland from the world’s largest single market, wiped £40 billion of tax receipts from the UK economy and which the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) estimates will inflict a 4% hit to GDP.

“You have already admitted that the Labour Party won’t reverse Tory welfare cuts, which are pushing thousands of Scottish children into poverty.

“You have also made clear that the NHS will not get the meaningful funding boost it needs under a UK Labour Party government – but you have repeatedly refused to say which public services will be hit under your £18 billion cuts.”

Shadow secretary of state for Scotland Ian Murray said: “John Swinney has a brass neck peddling this mince. Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have been clear – there will be no return to austerity under Labour.

“Meanwhile John Swinney was the architect of austerity who inflicted years of cuts to council budgets, leaving local services on their knees. He thinks a nurse on £29,000 a year should pay more tax but oil and gas giants taking in billions of pounds in profits shouldn’t. It doesn’t add up.

“Labour will prioritise economic stability to keep interest rates down and protect household finances while ending exploitative zero-hours contracts and making work pay with a pay rise for 200,000 Scots.”