Swinney spreading ‘misinformation and lies’ about Labour’s plans, warns Sarwar

The SNP has repeatedly accused Labour of seeking to usher in austerity.

John Swinney and Anas Sarwar have clashed on Labour’s spending plans
John Swinney and Anas Sarwar have clashed on Labour’s spending plans (Jane Barlow/PA)

John Swinney is spreading “misinformation and lies” about Labour’s spending plans, Anas Sarwar said as he disputed SNP attacks on his party’s manifesto.

The Scottish Labour leader said new spending powers his party is proposing for the Scotland Office would be used to help the most deprived communities north of the border.

A newspaper report has suggested Ian Murray, currently Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, would have a £150 million “war chest” from what is currently levelling up funding.

The SNP has repeatedly accused Labour and the Conservatives of seeking to usher in austerity, claiming both parties are refusing to level with the public that £18 billion of spending cuts are required.

First Minister Mr Swinney and Mr Sarwar had a heated exchange on the issue during a BBC Scotland election debate earlier in the week.

Anas Sarwar accused John Swinney of lying about Labour’s spending plans
Anas Sarwar accused John Swinney of lying about Labour’s spending plans (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Sarwar said the Labour manifesto explicitly rules out austerity.

He was asked about the issue while campaigning on Thursday in North Berwick, East Lothian, with Labour candidate – and former UK government minister – Douglas Alexander.

Asked about the First Minister’s comments, Mr Sarwar told the PA news agency: “John Swinney continues to spread misinformation and lies to the public because it’s a desperate politician desperately trying to find a message and desperately trying to make himself relevant in this election campaign.”

He likened Mr Swinney’s stance to the Conservatives’ Brexit referendum claim that £350 million was going to the EU each week.

Mr Sarwar continued: “He’s told two big lies in this election campaign already.

“He’s lied about the NHS being privatised… and the second big lie that he is telling is that somehow there will be a continuation of austerity.

“I’ve said quite clearly there’ll be no return to austerity.

“(UK Labour leader) Keir Starmer today said quite clearly there’ll be no return to austerity, (shadow chancellor) Rachel Reeves, when she was in Scotland last week, said clearly there’ll be no return to austerity.

“The UK Labour manifesto explicitly says there will be no return to austerity.”

Mr Sarwar also declared that the Labour manifesto is “an opportunity for change that Scotland can’t afford to miss”.

The document sets out some of Labour’s approach to fiscal policy, saying due to spending on public services south of the border Scotland will receive an additional £320 million per year through Barnett consequentials at the end of the next Parliament.

The manifesto also pledges a “reset” on relations between the UK Government and Holyrood, as well as greater collaboration with the Scottish Government on certain international issues.

The Daily Record reported the Scotland Office will receive a £150 million “war chest” to fight poverty.

Asked about this, Mr Sarwar said: “If you look at where the key points of deprivation are across our country, if you look at where there are specific challenges around child poverty, that’s where we will look to strategically do interventions to support infrastructure and projects to alleviate poverty.”

Ian Murray, right, is Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary
Ian Murray, right, is Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary (Jane Barlow/PA)

This funding is “a down payment on the first steps of a Labour government, if we get the privilege of being in government”, Mr Sarwar said.

Earlier, Mr Swinney accused Labour of being a “clear and present danger to the NHS”.

The SNP leader said: “The future of the NHS is a crucial issue in this election – and Labour must use their manifesto launch to U-turn on the creeping privatisation agenda set out by (shadow health secretary) Wes Streeting, and commit to backing the SNP’s Bill to ensure the NHS is always in public hands.

“By carving up England’s NHS and – in his words – ‘holding the door wide open’ to private interests, Wes Streeting is not even hiding his intentions.

“Unless they change course, it is clear that Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting represent a clear and present danger to the NHS.”

SNP candidate for Inverness, Skye, and West Ross-Shire Drew Hendry commented on Labour’s manifesto, pointing to reactions from think tanks like the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

He said: “Throughout this campaign, the Labour Party have been desperately trying to hide their plans for £18 billion of spending cuts – but the truth has caught up with them and they have been well and truly caught out.

“It used to be the Tories who said they were sick of experts – clearly the same now applies to the Labour Party who have been dismissing their repeated warnings that Sir Keir Starmer’s plans involve massive spending cuts to public services.

“Voters now have a right to know where the axe will fall under Labour’s plans for £18billion of cuts, which mean less money available for Scotland’s NHS and schools, less money to tackle poverty, and less money to help families with the cost of living.

“Scotland has been made to suffer 14 years of austerity, topped off with Brexit and a cost of living crisis.

“We need an escape from this, not more of the same.”