Nicola Sturgeon struggles to explain SNP economic policy as Jim Murphy promises no further cuts in Scotland

Guy Bentley
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Sturgeon challenged over the economy (Source: Getty)

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon struggled to articulate her party's economic policy during a shambolic debate between the main party leaders in Scotland.

In the third televised Scottish leaders' debate Sturgeon reiterated her desire to see Scotland granted full fiscal autonomy. Sturgeon was immediately attacked by Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Lib Dem Willie Rennie, who claimed Scotland would be left with a £7.6bn black hole.

The figure comes from the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Sturgeon refused to back down and said the IFS figure was only a snapshot and accused her rivals of believing Scotland was reliant on subsidies from the rest of the UK. She said the new powers would give Scotland the ability grow and she rejected the narrative of austerity.

"Do we take proper control or leave ourselves at the mercy of Westminster cuts?," asked Sturgeon. The SNP leader failed to specify exactly how the funding gap would be filled. Sturgeon stuck with criticising the figures and relying on oil and growth.

However, Labour's Jim Murphy challenged Sturgeon to explain what policy the SNP would pursue to achieve a growth rate that would be sufficient to make the numbers add up. Murphy accused Sturgeon of "making it up as she goes along." The Scottish Labour leader said the SNP would be more in line with the Tories in wanting to limit the sharing of resources between all the regions of the UK.

Murphy said Scotland would need to grow at twice the rate of other major developed economies to plug the gap in the public finances. Labour have attacked the SNP's economic plans, with Ed Balls warning full fiscal autonomy for Scotland would lead to "full fiscal austerity."

The heated debate descended into farce with the leaders frequently raising their voices to speak over each other. Murphy hoped to dent the SNP's appeal to Labour voters saying his party wouldn't need to make any further cuts in Scotland.

"The IFS are pretty clear that we don’t have to make further cuts to achieve our spending rules,” Murphy said.

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