SNP: Defence cuts would be a “calamity for Scotland”

Following reports the MoD budget faces an 8pc cut in Wednesday’s spending review, the SNP's Angus Robertson says the cuts will be a "calamity for Scotland".

Following reports that the Ministry of Defence budget faces an 8 per cent cut in Wednesday’s spending review, the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson told the party conference that the results on the sizeable Scottish defence industry would be a “calamity for Scotland”, while conference delegates called for troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

The most furious attack on the UK Government’s economic policies, however, came from leader Alex Salmond, who addressed the conference on its final day. The first minister declared:

“The Cameron-Clegg pact will see the greatest attack on public budgets ever. The cuts are too fast and too deep – we said that at the beginning, we say it now, though I notice many more agree with us as time goes by.

“Do not sacrifice the public services to appease your ideological gods. Do not let the people suffer for attitudes forged on the playing fields of Eton.

“On Wednesday the Tory Chancellor, cheered on by his Liberal deputy, will announce the most ferocious series of cuts witnessed in a lifetime. There is nothing to be gained from sugar-coating this – it will be hard, it will be deep and it will hurt.

“It risks ripping the social fabric of our nation – but we will not let that occur.”

Salmond also confirmed plans to merge some police forces in an effort to cut costs. Furthermore, in what the Caledonian Mercury dubbed a “surprisingly subdued speech”, he used the looming cuts as an opportunity to advance his case for independence, despite being forced to abandon plans for a referendum in this Parliament.

Elsewhere, the party conference in Perth heard from health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who pledged to cut bureaucracy in the NHS, whilst following Northern Ireland and Wales’s lead by committing to scrapping prescription charges, despite her admission in the Herald last weekend that NHS spending faced cuts, and finance secretary John Swinney, who warned that public sector workers in Scotland faced “significant constraint” on their wages.

The party confirmed its intention to continue to freeze council tax, whilst Ms Sturgeon confirmed on the Daily Politics that the SNP administration would not be prepared to use the limited tax raising powers it does have to help plug the gap – preferring instead to have a go at London. The issue that overshadowed the entire conference was the spending review on Wednesday, and how the Scottish Government will react to a substantially reduced settlement from Westminster.

In the wake of David Cameron’s criticism of the Scottish government’s decision to release the Lockerbie bomber at the Tory conference, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill made clear that he is accountable to the Scottish parliament alone, a snub to both Mr Cameron and to the US Senate committee now looking into the matter.

Meanwhile, the Local Government body in Scotland, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), issued a stark warning of the impact of the cuts to come. Speaking ahead of the chancellor’s statement on Wednesday, COSLA president Pat Watters warned:

“This is crunch time for the vital local government services that communities across Scotland rely on, and also for the workers who work day in and day out to deliver them. If it is not handled correctly then the consequences could be disastrous.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.