General Election 2015: Miliband to the rescue in Scotland after polls show a Labour wipe-out

Labours dire ratings in Scotland have left Mr Miliband with little choice but to multiply his campaign efforts in territory that once voted Labour as a reflex

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Ed Miliband has put the survival of his party in Scotland centre-stage in Labour’s election campaign by mounting a rescue mission to Edinburgh after new polls showed Labour’s fortunes worsening north of the border.

With the SNP now standing in the way of Labour’s chances of emerging as the largest party on May 7, both Mr Milband and the former shadow chancellor, Ed Balls warned supporters in Labour’s heartlands planning to desert to Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalists, that  the SNP’s policy of wanting a fast-tracked exit from the UK’s collective  tax system would be a “perfect storm” of cuts and falling revenue delivering only “extended austerity” north of the border.

Although Labour are seeing a mini-bounce in UK polls, the party’s dire ratings in Scotland have left Mr Miliband with little choice but to multiply his campaign efforts in territory that once voted Labour as a reflex.


His schedule of campaign visits to Scotland has been upgraded.  He promised the audience in Edinburgh, against a backdrop of the capital’s castle, that he would be back.

Speaking alongside Mr Balls, and Labour’s Scottish leader, Jim Murphy, the Labour leader said that with 37 days of campaigning left, the SNP’s economic plans were “unraveling”.

The identified “black hole” in Scotland’s finances, that would come from full fiscal control being devolved,  has been estimated by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) to be £7.6 billion.

Mr Miliband said this would translate into a “devastating” 12 per cent cut in all Scottish spending, including pensions and benefits.

He said the SNP’s  claim to be an anti-austerity party were “false” because their policy would “actually extend austerity”.

All smiles: Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie before the debate (PA)

Ms Sturgeon called Labour’s analysis “wrong” and accused them of repeating the same “smears and fears” that were used against the case for independence during last year’s referendum. She said the only cuts on the horizon were Tory ones “that Labour are backing.”

Mr Balls said that if David Cameron won a second term, they would delight in seeing the SNP advance their austerity regime. Urging Ms Sturgeon to “come clean” about what full fiscal autonomy would mean, Mr Miliband said “ I will never sell Britain short by abandoning the pooling and sharing of resources because this benefits all part of the country.”

Although Mr Murphy’s performances against the SNP leader in the two televised debates earlier this week was widely praised from with his own party ranks, polls still point to Labour in Scotland being left with just a handful of seats.

With the Conservatives having nothing to lose in Scotland, Mr Miliband’s heightened focus on the SNP has its risks.

The Labour trio in Edinburgh all attacked the SNP policy of full fiscal autonomy (FFA)  as a “bombshell for Scotland.” (PA)

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, who mounted highly personal attacks on Mr Miliband over Trident’s renewal, turned on him again over his visit to Scotland. “This shows that the SNP are already pulling Labour's strings. Nicola Sturgeon makes a statement, and the Labour leader rushes to Edinburgh to respond. If it's like this now, imagine what it would be like with the SNP propping up Ed Miliband in Downing Street,” he said.

Before turning his attention to the Scottish battleground, Mr Miliband described the Tory campaign as a descent into “desperation and panic”, accusing his rivals of deploying abuse and making unfunded, undeliverable promises.

The Labour trio in Edinburgh all attacked the SNP policy of full fiscal autonomy (FFA)  as a “bombshell for Scotland.”

Labour research said FFA would translate into Scottish pensioners, who currently received their state income from the UK pension system, being left £940 a year worse off.

The gap between the pension-level population in Scotland, 19.8 percent, and the rest of the UK figure, of 19.2 percent, would, according to Labour’s figures, double by 2032 – costing every working age person in Scotland £410 a year.

Although the SNP insist fiscal control would be used to grow the Scottish economy, Mr Balls said Scotland would need to double its growth rate to 5.3 percent to fill the IFS’s predicted hole.

That growth level, he said, was double the IMF’s predicted rate for advanced economies and higher than the growth rate for emerging market and developing economies.

Mr Miliband again ruled out any “coalition” deal with the SNP, describing the gulf between the two parties as “wide”.

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