Election 2015 Scotland

Election 2015: Scottish party leaders clash on spending cuts

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Media captionThe leaders of the four main political parties in Scotland clash over spending cuts the lead-up to Thursday's general election

Scotland's party leaders have clashed over public spending cuts in the next UK parliament.

Scottish Conservative Ruth Davidson said she wanted to reduce welfare and help more people into work.

Labour's Jim Murphy said he wanted to make the rich pay more tax, while Nicola Sturgeon, of the SNP, called for "modest" spending increases.

During a BBC debate, Scottish Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie said his party had a costed deficit-cutting plan.

Speaking during the live programme from Edinburgh, four days before the election, Ms Davidson said her party would make £30bn of cuts in the next parliament - including £12bn of welfare cuts - while going after tax-dodgers.

She explained: "I get quite angry in this debate that the other three people here seem to say that we shouldn't want to reduce our benefits bill.

"I don't believe anyone should be left on benefits - I want to bring the benefit and welfare bill down because I want to see people in work and providing for their family."

'How dare you'

Mr Murphy, who said a Labour government would make "some savings" while asking the richest to pay more tax and, attacked the current Tory-led government, saying: "There's a deliberate target that whatever your behaviour, you will get sanctioned by the Job Centre.

"You don't then find out about it until you go to the hole in the wall and the bank to get your money out. You go to a high street money lender that you can't afford or you go to a food bank because you can't feed your kids - its utterly unacceptable."

Ms Davidson accused Mr Murphy of telling an "outright lie", while the Scottish Labour leader replied: "How dare you call me a liar."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It is the final Scottish leaders' debate before polling day on 7 May

Ms Sturgeon said it was time for modest spending increases in the next parliament of 0.5% a year - even though getting rid of the deficit may take two or three years longer.

The SNP leader said Labour and the Tories had "manufactured" a welfare disagreement, adding: "When it comes to policy, there's very little to choose between Labour and the Tories."

She said: One of the biggest cuts that is proposed right now and on the table that Labour is not proposing to overturn is a £3bn cut in disability benefit - that will mean something like 100,000 disabled people across Scotland are going to lose more than £1,000 every year of the income they rely on."

Mr Rennie said it was important to balance the books as early as possible.

He added: "What we need to do is to make sure we're not burdening future generations with the debts of today.

"We also need to make sure that the economic recovery continues - we've made significant progress in the last five years."

The leaders were also quizzed by members of the debate audience about what their manifestoes would be worth in the event of a hung parliament - where no single party won an overall majority.

Ms Sturgeon, who argued that a strong SNP showing at the polls could fight for a fairer deal at Westminster, said her party's MPs could vote down a Labour budget which failed to end austerity but without bringing down the UK government.

She said: "If Labour puts forward a budget that imposes more cuts on vulnerable people - as clearly they intend to do - the SNP will vote against it and we will seek to use our clout in the house of commons to get a fairer deal."

Ms Sturgeon, who previously said the SNP would only press for another Scottish independence referendum if something "material changed", was asked if that included renewal of the UK's nuclear weapon system.

She replied: "I'm not gong to give a list because I can't see into the future."

'Absolute chaos'

Mr Murphy told the SNP leader: "The cat is out of the bag - the SNP are clear that after Friday they are willing to bring down a Labour budget, they're willing to bring down a Labour Queen's Speech."

Ms Davidson added: "What we saw there - the rough wooing between Nicola and Jim, the kind of deal-by-deal vote you would see in the next parliament if it was a Labour Party that was reliant on the SNP, is exactly the sort of politics that most people hate.

"We need 23 more seats across the UK - just 23 more seats - to form a majority. The Labour Party needs nearly 100 seats."

Mr Rennie said it was "pretty clear" no party would win a majority, adding: "You can just imagine the chaos - the absolute chaos - if Nicola Sturgeon's party holds the balance of power.

"I think we need stability, security, safety, we need honesty and decency in the next parliament - you will not get that with the SNP."

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