Votes for the SNP bind them closer into the Union

Votes for the SNP in the general election would bind the SNP closer into the Union especially if Labour  form the government. This was becoming even clearer from the analysis of the gap between Labour’s and the SNP’s austerity plans by Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies. ( Times £)

What is clear is that there is a really quite substantial difference between Labour and the Conservatives. We can put it in the order of £24 billion of spending a year by the end of the parliament.”

He said George Osborne’s cuts would be between £25 billion and 30 billion while those proposed by Ed Balls would be about £5 billion. The difference is because the shadow chancellor is prepared to borrow more.

Mr Johnson went on to say that the SNP’s plans, announced by Ms Sturgeon earlier this year, would amount to an increase in spending of about £7 billion by the end of the parliament.

The facts increase pressure for a Labour -SNP deal and  undermine  Labour’s  claim that a vote for the SNP is automatically a vote for the Tories, provided Labour  can hit around 280 seats with at least 270 of them in England. Quite a tall order I agree.  My case is for a large but not too large cohort of SNP MPs after 8 May voting regularly on all financial affairs which could conceivably affect Scotland, with two fingers held up to Conservative MPs militant for English votes on English laws. If it works it reduces the oxygen for separation.  And there’s a stronger argument: the SNP cannot afford to go it alone with devo max or full fiscal autonomy  As a recent analysis shows:

Scottish public spending is over 10% higher per head than UK average, while the taxation income especially now that oil revenues are collapsing, is well short of what is needed to support it, and indeed below UK average levels. Cuts in public spending or increases in taxation of £8 billion a year or more would be needed, implying at least a 12% reduction of spending on top of cuts already in spending plans; alternatively, tax income would need to rise by about 15%. Public expenditure reductions of this scale would have to be spread across public services and across welfare spending, and could only be expected to increase as Scottish demography drives demand for pension spending.

Cuts on this scale would be electoral suicide.

An extra £7 billion or so would nearly see them through under existing fiscal powers. Take note and don’t stretch reality too far, Sinn Fein!

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London