Election 2015 Scotland

Election 2015: Scottish party leaders clash over powers

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Media captionAndrew Kerr reports on the heated discussion by Scotland's party leaders

Scotland's main party leaders have clashed over increasing the nation's financial powers.

In a BBC debate, ahead of the election, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted Scotland to take full control of taxation to grow the economy.

Scottish Labour's Jim Murphy, the Conservatives' Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, of the Lib Dems, said bringing in full fiscal autonomy would create a £7.6bn hole in Scotland's finances.

The debate was shown on BBC Scotland.

It was the third time the Scottish leaders had met in five days.

During heated exchanges in the Sunday Politics Scotland debate, Ms Sturgeon said the three pro-union parties had "revived project fear" in relation to full fiscal autonomy, and that Scotland's economy would grow when Holyrood was in charge of all tax and spend.

She said: "This is a debate about whether Scotland should take more control over our fiscal responsibility. Do we take proper control or leave ourselves at the mercy of Westminster cuts?"

Welfare spending

Mr Murphy said Ms Sturgeon was "making it up as she goes along", adding that the country would have to grow at twice the rate of other advanced countries to make up the shortfall.

He asked her: "What is the magic policy you have that other countries don't have?"

Ms Davidson said the SNP had not adequately outlined how growth would be created under full fiscal autonomy.

She added: "You can't say 'I want control, I just don't want it yet' and then blame us for the fact that your sums don't add up."

Mr Rennie, meanwhile, said the SNP was proposing to "compound the challenges we are facing on getting the economy back on track with an extra £7.6bn of difficulties".

Elsewhere, the leaders were asked by presenter Gordon Brewer whether they would cut welfare spending.

Ms Davidson said her party would reduce the benefits cap to £23,000, while both Mr Rennie and Mr Murphy said it should remain at £26,000. Ms Sturgeon said the cap was "not a priority for change".

Campaign trail

The debate will be available on the BBC iplayer.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the Scottish Conservatives are focusing on welfare, citing research appearing to show the Scottish public backing them on the capping of benefits.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is campaigning in Paisley, where she will meet former Labour supporters who have moved to her party and set out an SNP "guarantee" to Labour voters.

Scottish Labour lead on pensions, warning that full fiscal autonomy - which would see all taxes and welfare run by Holyrood and is supported by the SNP - would leave pensioners £1,000 a year worse off.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has challenged the SNP to abandon the "accelerated pathway" to another referendum, saying any uncertainty will damage the economy.

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