Election '97: Forsyth warns Scots of leap into the abyss Forsyth warns Scotstwa of pounds 2.5 say home warn of 'leap into abyss'

Sounding like a man desperate at the prospect of losing both his Cabinet post and his parliamentary seat, Michael Forsyth yesterday warned Scots that home rule could rob their public services of up to pounds 2.5bn.

Scotland stood on "the edge of a precipice", the Secretary of State for Scotland declared in the most apocalyptic contribution by any party on the final day of campaigning north of the border. A vote for anyone other than the Conservatives would be a "leap into the abyss". Living standards would fall, and health, housing and education services would suffer, he said.

In an apparent breach of convention, Mr Forsyth cited advice from officials within the Scottish Office who, he claimed, had told him the funding formula proposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats for a devolved administration would cut pounds 1bn to pounds 1.5bn from Scotland's pounds 14bn public expenditure grant. If the Treasury got its way, the cut could be pounds 2.5bn, he claimed.

Normally civil servants are not dragged into the election battle. Mr Forsyth said he had been "reluctant" to reveal their advice, but as the Opposition had had the opportunity of discussions with officials he would be "amazed" if they had not raised the funding issue. "If they have not addressed it, they are not fit to be in government."

Mr Forsyth's deployment of civil servants' advice on the last day of the campaign is a reflection of his own desperate circumstances. Not only does the Tory party in Scotland face a hammering today, but his own seat of Stirling is one of the most vulnerable. Labour needs a swing of just 0.3 per cent to take it.

According to the Constitutional Convention - the blue-print agreed by Labour and the Lib Dems for home rule - the current formula for calculating Scotland's share of UK spending would continue. However, it also advocates further moves towards equalisation across the UK, with resources distributed "on the basis of relative need".

According to Mr Forsyth, spending on health and local government is one- third more per head in Scotland than in England. No objective needs assessment had been carried out since 1979 and in the meantime Scotland had become one of the most prosperous places in the UK, he added.

George Robertson, the shadow Scottish Secretary, dismissed Mr Forsyth's claims as last-gasp scaremongering. "It bears no relation to any advice I have received from the Scottish Office on this point. A Labour chancellor will guarantee Scotland its fair share of Britain's resources side-by- side with home rule."

The Scottish National Party drove home its independence message at a gathering of about 80 supporters beneath the empty parliament building on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

Alex Salmond, the party leader, predicted the SNP would win "a barrow load of seats" today. In reality, seven or eight, compared to four MPs when the election was called, would be counted a success. Any losses and Mr Salmond's job will be at risk.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, were clinging to the hope that they will become the second party in Scotland. Sir David Steel said a substantial group of Liberal Democrats in the next Parliament could provide a "more radical edge" to a Blair government.

A large number of voters felt the Tories and Labour were offering "something like a choice between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola", Sir David said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions