IFS accuses SNP of misusing figures to push for full fiscal autonomy

SNP had previously accused Westminster of misrepresenting Scotland's finances


As Left Foot Forward reported yesterday, the SNP have brought forward an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would provide full fiscal autonomy (FFA) for Holyrood.

The amendment would allow the Scottish parliament to remove the reservation on taxation, borrowing and public expenditure, enabling them to legislate for FFA.

In a statement, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP accused Tory and Labour politicians of trying to block the additional powers by misrepresenting Scotland’s financial position:

“The IFS figures they cite suggest that Scotland would have a deficit of £7.6 billion in 2015-16. But over the five years to 2013-14, the UK’s cumulative deficit has been worth over £600 billion.”

But according to the IFS, it is actually the SNP who are misusing figures. Speaking to the Financial Times(£), programme director Gemma Tetlow said:

“Our figures are not that Scotland’s borrowing [under the SNP’s plans] would be £7.6bn in 2016-17. Our figures suggest £14.2bn.”

As the FT reports, the IFS say that FFS would create a deficit of 4.6 per cent of national income in five years – equivalent to £8.9bn. According to the SNP, not only is this figure sustainable, it is comparable to past deficits run by UK governments.

Angus Robertson said yesterday that:

“The UK has been in deficit in 43 of the last 50 years. On the basis of the Tory and Labour argument, the UK can’t afford to be fiscally autonomous. This figure also implies that a fiscally autonomous Scotland would continue to stick with the current Tory spending plans, which clearly it would not.”

But in a report also published yesterday, the IFS refuted this:

“There have been very few years when the UK has run a deficit as large as 4.6 per cent of national income. In fact, this has only happened during the recent crisis period, the recession of the early 1990s, and the troubled times of the mid- to late 1970s.

“Furthermore, were the UK to run borrowing at this level, debt would be likely to continue rising over the longer term, rather than falling.”

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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