SCOTTISH Labor leader Anas Sarwar has been accused of ‘blowing austerity away’ after he defended Westminster funding of public services in recent years.
Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced energy company tax plans to help with the cost of living crisis – with the SNP saying 90% of that money would come from north of the border.
Based on data from the House of Commons Library, the party predicts that £4.5billion of the £5billion the UK government estimates the tax will raise will come from Scotland.
If that £4.5billion were kept in Scotland, their analysis shows it would give every Scottish household a cash boost of £1,800 to meet rising energy costs.
After Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman (above) made a similar argument on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, suggesting the tax should have been imposed on all businesses making extra profits during the pandemic – rather than focusing on the oil and gas sector.
She continued: ‘If Scotland were an independent country the windfall tax would generate £1800 for every household in Scotland, so it feels like we are paying the price for the Chancellor’s failures here.’
But Scottish Labor leader Sarwar disagreed with the analysis – arguing the tax is a Union benefit.
“When the oil and gas industry collapsed, taxes from across the UK helped fund public services,” he said.
“Now – as corporations take in billions – the oil and gas giants should help alleviate poverty in Glasgow and Liverpool.
“It’s an argument for the UK, not for independence.”
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Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, there have been major spending cuts as part of the party’s austerity program.
Upon entering government, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition laid out plans for the biggest cuts in state spending since World War II. This included deep cuts in social security for the most vulnerable and the projected loss of 900,000 public sector jobs.
In 2019, Scotland’s Finance Secretary warned that continued austerity from the Westminster government meant “£12billion less was invested in Scottish public services” during the 2010s.
And according to The Guardian, for every £100 spent on public services in 2010, only £86 is currently being spent in real terms.
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Michelle Thomson, SNP MSP for Falkirk East, strongly criticized Sarwar’s argument.
“Scottish public services have suffered over a decade of Tory cuts, but now Anas Sarwar has become an apologist for those cuts and austerity on the air arguing incredibly that Westminster control has kept services funded public,” she said.
“The windfall tax is once again Westminster using Scotland as a cash cow when it sees fit, as 90% of the revenue will come from profits made in Scotland.
“That’s what the Scots are getting under Westminster control – cuts to services and then leveraging our resources to support them when they need it.”
Thomson continued: “Anas Sarwar’s Labor Party failed to capitalize on Scotland’s oil and gas sector and that legacy is now being felt with thousands of households in fuel poverty and terrified of open their bills when they land on their doorstep.
“This is not the first time we have seen Anas Sarwar come close to the Tories and, as his dirty dealings with the Tories on councils across Scotland show, it will not be the last.”
It comes after Sarwar sparked anger across Scotland last week by striking a deal with the Tories to lead Edinburgh council.
Before the May elections, Sarwar ruled out formal coalitions with opposition parties.
But on Thursday Labor turned against the SNP, their former coalition partners in the capital, and decided to work with LibDem and the Tories instead.
There are at least five other councils across Scotland where Labor have made deals although the SNP is the largest group.