Alexander warns of steep Scottish spending cuts

25 Nov 10
The chief secretary to the Treasury has warned that spending cuts in Scotland will be ‘steeper’ than they might have been

By David Scott

26 November 2010

The chief secretary to the Treasury has warned that spending cuts in Scotland will be ‘steeper’ than they might have been.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament finance committee yesterday, Danny Alexander was critical of Scottish ministers’ decision to delay cuts until the next financial year. ‘[It] does mean that the reductions next year are steeper than they otherwise would have been,’ he said.

Alexander also rejected the claims made by Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney that the UK government’s spending plans were ‘too far and too fast’.

‘I think he’s wrong on that particular subject,’ Alexander told the MSPs.

‘I think the pace of deficit reduction we have chosen… is right and necessary to stabilise the public finances in this country to ensure we can go forward on a sound basis and that we can lay the foundations for future prosperity in this country.’

The Treasury minister criticised the Scottish Government’s decision to set a budget for one year only.

The Scottish budget, announced on November 17, drew criticism from opposition parties, who claimed the SNP administration was ducking the big challenges ahead of next May’s Scottish elections. They argued it should have covered the next three years.

Alexander said the UK government had set out spending plans for the next four years, in sharp contrast to the decision of the Scottish Government.

He believed the four-year plan was responsible, adding that it had set out clearly what it would mean for Scotland under the Barnett funding formula.

‘There was plenty of information for the Scottish Government, should it wish to, to plan beyond one year, which I think might be an approach that allowed a greater degree of certainty for public services in Scotland.’

The one year decision was in contrast to the Welsh Assembly’s decision to plan its spending over three years, the chief secretary noted. 

‘I think that makes sense in terms of a responsible approach to public spending,’ he said.

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