SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon hits out against austerity in major new election pitch

Scotland’s first minister is giving a speech in London today

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Austerity is not working. It is stifling economic growth, threatening public services, and is not even achieving the government’s aim of straightening out public finances, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon will claim today.

The speech, which is being delivered in London, reveal what the SNP’s chosen battle ground will be at May’s general election, when they will tell voters that austerity is a failed policy being inflicted on Scotland by a London-based government.

She will say that the SNP would back a £180 million increase in public spending, and claim that Scotland would be able to “exert an influence” on London after the election – a broad hint that with the SNP’s standing in opinion polls at an all-time high, they expect to send a large enough contingent of MPs to Westminster to give them a hold on whatever government emerges in a hung Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon claims that government debt would be falling even without the austerity programme imposed by the present government, and will say that the SNP would back a “modest” five per cent increase in public spending.

"Debt and deficit would still be falling as a percentage of GDP over these years but we would free up something in the region of £180bn over the UK to invest in infrastructure, in innovation, in growing the economy," she is expected to say.

"I'm not denying that it is important to get the deficit under control and to start reducing the debt. To look at deficit in isolation is far too narrow, because although that's important, it's also important to have stronger, sustainable, more solidly-based economic growth, it's important to tackle inequality, it's important to protect public services.

 

"The UK government's economic policy has failed: categorically and comprehensively. And not by my reckoning, but on the UK government's own terms. Perhaps most damagingly of all for the UK government's credibility, it has failed to meet its own deficit reduction targets.

"But what the UK government is now telling us is this: austerity hasn't worked, so we need even more of it."

Ms Sturgeon will be talking as head of the Scottish government, rather than as leader of the SNP.

But with three months to go to until the general election, she is expected to hint at her party's role after 7 May, saying she hopes Scotland can "exert a beneficial influence" on developments in London.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “All the bombast in the world will not change the reality that the UK government's economic strategy is working.

"Whether Nicola Sturgeon likes it or not, this government has cut borrowing by £52bn from the level we inherited.”

Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran agreed that the austerity programme has failed, but claimed: “Scotland can't afford another five years of David Cameron, but Nicola Sturgeon wants to help the Tories get back into power. Every vote for the SNP in May is another boost for David Cameron, and makes it more likely that he will be Prime Minister for another five years.”

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