Sarwar criticises ‘ludicrous’ SNP claims Labour would cut public spending

SNP claims that a Labour government would impose significant public spending cuts on Scotland are “ludicrous”, Anas Sarwar has said.

The Scottish Labour leader said such comments are a “symbol of their desperation” and accused the SNP of being “out of tune and out of step” with public opinion in Scotland.

His comments come after First Minister John Swinney used a speech on Friday to claim that the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will inflict “significant cuts” on public spending in Scotland if his party wins the July 4 General Election.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has already warned of “sharp” cuts to come, regardless of whether Labour or the Conservatives win power.

Anas Sarwar at the University of Glasgow
Anas Sarwar visited the University of Glasgow on Monday (PA)

On Monday Mr Swinney said he is deeply concerned that Labour and the Tories are “debating our economic future in a parallel universe – by refusing to accept the reality of their decisions.”

Asked about the attacks on a visit in Glasgow on Monday, Mr Sarwar said: “This is just the latest in a series of ludicrous claims and attacks from the SNP because it appears now that they are less interested in getting rid of the Tories and more interested in attacking the Labour party.

“And I think they are out of tune and out of step with the Scottish people.

“The Scottish people recognise that this election is our opportunity and one we can’t afford to miss to get rid of this rotten right-wing Tory government and that’s what I’m focused on.

“The SNP can continue the attack on the Labour Party all it likes. I think that’s a symbol of their desperation rather than actually them being in tune with public opinion here in Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar was speaking as he visited the University of Glasgow’s School of Health and Wellbeing where he said a Labour government would back life sciences and put Scotland at the “global forefront” of medical research.

He also took aim at the SNP and the Conservatives, accusing both parties of “undermining” the sector.

Mr Sarwar said: “Life sciences is a Scottish success story – creating jobs and attracting investment while making a crucial contribution to the fight against diseases like Scotland’s biggest killer, cancer.”

The Scottish Labour leader also said that the UK immigration system needs to change as the current system is “fundamentally broken”, having been “completely trashed” by the Conservatives which he said is having a negative impact on attracting talent and delivering services.

Mr Sarwar said: “Having an immigration system that is fit for purpose, that is linked to our skills system – because there’s a complete disconnect in our skills system – means that we can look at UK net migration which in my view is too high.

“But I think it’s important to look at the different demands and challenges in different parts of the UK around immigration so an immigration and skill system that meets the needs of London will be very very different from what it means in Aberdeen and the north east and be very different from what it means for the Western Isles and our island communities.

“Therefore, I think we do need to change our immigration system to make it fit for purpose and match it with our skills system.”

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Liz Smith said: “John Swinney and the SNP have zero credibility on this issue, given the swingeing cuts imposed on Scotland’s public services by Shona Robison’s disastrous tax-and-axe budget.

“Despite receiving record block grants from the UK Government, the SNP mismanagement has led to a £1.5billion black hole in Scotland’s finances and eye-watering cuts to our essential services.”

Drew Hendry, the SNP General Election candidate for Inverness, Skye and Ross-Shire, said: “Anas Sarwar can spend his time attacking the SNP all he wants, but he is effectively accusing the IFS – the UK’s leading, independent economic research institute – of lying.

“It is the IFS, not the SNP, who have confirmed that both the Labour Party and Tory budget plans will lead to £18 billion of cuts to public services.

“He can choose to attack these independent figures as ‘ludicrous’, but I think most people will trust that the IFS are far better at maths than Anas Sarwar.

“The truth is that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party are fully signed up to Tory spending cuts and their desperate attempt to hide it from the public is now falling apart.”