Sturgeon must correct a fundamental untruth
Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Kezia Dugdale MSP has today taken the exceptional step of writing to the First Minister to ask her to correct what appears to have been a direct misleading of Parliament.
Dear First Minister,
Today at First Minister’s Questions I offered the opportunity to set the record straight on the figures behind the Scottish Government’s economic plan for full fiscal autonomy within the UK.
In particular, I put it to you that your Government’s analysis of what it would mean to lose the money we get from Barnett, still included the benefits of Barnett.
First Minister, today you stated on the record to Parliament:
“Can I repeat what I said last week in this chamber; the modelling doesn’t simulate the continuation of the Barnett Formula.”
Knowing that last week you would not knowingly have misled parliament, I offered the opportunity to correct the record.
Yet your response simply repeated the position you asserted in the chamber last week:
“The modelling does not simulate the continuation of the Barnett formula.”
Going on to state:
“As we know from past experience Presiding Officer, the Barnett formula is not part of the modelling framework.”
I have now read the official response from the Scottish Government following today’s First Minister’s questions and considered all of the evidence from impartial experts including Professor Brian Ashcroft and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe). I am firmly of the view that you have now misled Parliament twice.
The impartial experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) have said the Scottish Government’s analysis of full fiscal autonomy doesn’t appear to take into account that the economy would start from a different point. So either the SNP Government has included Barnett or failed to explain what spending cuts, tax rises or extra borrowing would be needed.
Professor Brian Ashcroft of the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde has described your analysis as “partial at best and dishonest at worst.”
Faced with all the facts, the only conclusion that the public will reach on this is that you have lied.
In saying that all the experts are wrong, you continue to assert that under full fiscal autonomy we can still benefit from the higher public spending that comes from the block grant. That’s just not true.
I include a copy of our correspondence with SPICe and the conclusions of Professor Ashcroft.
It is a continued frustration that parliamentary procedures fail to offer an opportunity to hold the Scottish Government to account on an occasion that they mislead the Scottish Parliament.
The decision to pursue this matter and respond in this way is not one I have taken lightly. I do so because this is an issue of exceptional importance to voters as we enter the General Election campaign.
Following Alex Salmond’s announcement, you have been perfectly clear that fiscal autonomy within the UK is your stated policy. This means the end of the benefits of Barnett to Scotland. I am equally clear that we will guarantee Barnett continues along with the stability of spending on public services it delivers.
This goes beyond the day to day of party politics. It is about how we fund our NHS, schools and other vital services.
The difference is I am open about our position and our figures. In contrast, the entire basis of the SNP’s economic plan is based on a fundamental untruth and is staggeringly dishonest. This matters because your plan would mean austerity max for Scotland.
I look forward to a straight response on this matter.
Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour