SNP plans could bring further austerity in independent Scotland, says think tank

SNP plans could mean more austerity in an independent Scotland not less, according to a think tank.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), which previously stated neither the Conservatives nor Labour were offering “credible” spending plans ahead of the election, said the SNP’s manifesto focuses on independence rather than setting out a costed plan for Government.

Writing in The Scotsman newspaper, IFS associate director David Phillips said an independent Scotland would have to “count its pennies and pounds” in at least the first decade.

As well as calling for increased NHS spending, the SNP has demanded an end to the two-child cap on tax credits, the scrapping of the so-called bedroom tax and an increase in the living wage.

“In contrast to not only Labour but also the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, the manifesto omits putting a cost to these measures,” Mr Phillips wrote.

“Nor does it set out plans for overall tax, spending and borrowing, which the other parties do and the SNP’s own manifestos did in 2015 and 2017.

“It may reflect the fact that such a package of spending increases and tax cuts would mean the UK Government having to borrow to cover day-to-day spending – something the other main parties have claimed they would not do.”

Mr Phillips said pursuing the types of policies suggested in the SNP manifesto in an independent Scotland would mean either bigger cuts or other taxes would have to be increased to pay for proposed net giveaways.

“It may also reflect the fact that the SNP’s manifesto isn’t really about a plan of action for five years of governing the UK,” he said.

“Rather it is about starting the process of leaving the UK in the next year.

“It’s about contrasting a near decade of austerity and years of divisive debate over Brexit in the UK, with a positive-sounding vision of independence.”

He added: “Even the Conservatives’ modest proposals for the coming Parliament would see spending grow by around 1.8% a year, slightly ahead of forecast economic growth.

“Therefore, in the short-term at least, independence would likely necessitate more not less austerity.”

Mr Phillips concluded: “An independent Scotland would have to count its pennies and pounds in at least its first decade of life.

“It might therefore be understandable that the SNP manifesto does not draw quite the same attention to the price tag of its proposals as Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in particular, do.”