Latest Election Campaign Trail News

31 March 2015, 18:17

Both Labour and the SNP have claimed a vote for them is the best way to bring about an end to austerity economics.

SNP depute leader Stewart Hosie said that the Westminster "obsession with austerity is holding back Scotland's economy and damaging communities across the country''.

But Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy insisted that voting for any other party would simply make it easier for the Conservatives to get back into government, with this resulting in "five more years of austerity that would be dreadful for Scotland''.

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has proposed increasing public spending across the UK by £180 billion - and insists this can happen at the same time as tackling the budget deficit.

Mr Hosie said that people were "crying out for a real alternative'' to failing austerity economics.

He added: ''The Tories are determined to ignore the fact that their austerity policies have failed even by their own standards and, despite claims made in recent days, Labour can't hide the fact that they have shamefully backed George Osborne's plans for a further £30 billion of cuts.

''That both these parties are wedded to the same austerity agenda while supporting spending £100 billion on a new generation of weapons of mass destruction isn't just economically illiterate - it is morally indefensible.''

Mr Hosie, who was campaigning in Gordon Brown's former seat in Kirkcaldy, added: ''Under the SNP plans set out by Nicola Sturgeon, we could see a modest increase in public spending, allowing us to protect our NHS budget, invest in education and childcare, and create more job opportunities for our young people.

''A strong team of SNP MPs working with progressive allies from across the UK will put an end to the ideological commitment to austerity of both the Tory and Labour leaderships - delivering real support for businesses, protecting our public services and creating more opportunities for our young people.''

The SNP won six Scottish seats at the last general election in 2010 but with support for the party having surged since the independence referendum last year, polls suggest there could be dozens of Scottish nationalist MPs after May 7 - who could potentially hold the balance of power if there is a hung parliament.

But Mr Murphy insisted Labour is the only party that can bring about social justice, telling Scots: "A UK Labour government doesn't happen by proxy - you need to vote for it.

"A vote for any other party makes it easier for the Tories to hang on and means five more years of austerity that would be dreadful for Scotland.''

Mr Murphy made the comments as he visited a community cafe in Edinburgh, where he prepared a ''kettle box'' food pack, which is given to those with no proper cooking facilities.

He pledged Labour would scrap welfare reforms known as the "bedroom tax'' and would then invest the £35 million a year spent mitigating this in Scotland in an anti-poverty fund.

Mr Murphy said: "Labour will abolish the Tories' bedroom tax and we will use the savings to establish a £175 million Scottish Anti-Poverty Fund.

"We will drive up living standards by banning exploitative zero-hours  contracts, raise the minimum wage and extend the living wage.

''We have a vision for Scotland: A country where people in crisis are supported, not forced to queue for handouts. A country where young people, no matter their background, get every opportunity to succeed. A country where working families prosper.

''We will build the fairest nation on earth. That will start with a UK Labour government in May."

Liberal Democrats focused on health as Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael campaigned in the north east of Scotland, where candidate Christine Jardine is hoping to retain the Gordon constituency for the party and thwart Alex Salmond's hopes of a return to Westminster.

Mr Carmichael said the General Election on May 7 was a "golden opportunity to secure better healthcare for Scotland'' as he challenged rival parties to match Lib Dem plans to commit an extra £800 million for the NHS in Scotland.

He said: ''My challenge to the other parties in Scotland is this - will you match our ambition for the health service and give doctors and nurses the support they need, and tell us how you plan to fund it?''

Meanwhile, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Tories were the only party campaigning for a "fair deal on tax for Scots''.

She spoke out ahead of the introduction of the Land and Building Transaction Tax, which replaces stamp duty on property sales in Scotland.

Ms Davidson said the new system north of the border would be more punitive than reforms to stamp duty in England which have been brought in by Chancellor George Osborne.

The Scottish Conservative leader said: "It's a tax grab on Scottish homebuyers.

"This is the first tax that the SNP Government has taken control over at the Scottish Parliament and it's clear its first instinct is to hike taxes, not cut them.

"This is exactly what the SNP would try to do if it got its hands on the levers of power at Westminster too."

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