Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Tory offer to SNP on Scottish budget cuts

Mr Osborne said the Tories would give Scottish ministers two years to make cuts

The Conservatives have offered to let SNP ministers defer any fresh spending cuts the party might make, should it win the UK election.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said he would allow Holyrood to spread the pain of any additional cuts to the 2010-11 budget over two years.

Scottish ministers had asked for a guarantee for no new cuts to their budget for the coming financial year.

They warned the Tory concession could mean "double the pain" later on.

The shadow chancellor's offer came the day after Scottish first minister Alex Salmond used his speech to the SNP conference to pledge to protect Scotland from any post-election public spending cuts.

With a typically Tory sting in the tail, George Osborne would impose double the pain the year after
John Swinney

Mr Osborne told the BBC Scotland's Politics Show: "The whole of the United Kingdom has to make savings and Scotland is not immune from that.

"Because the budget has passed through the Scottish Parliament for 2010-11, we will respect that."

He said the Scottish government could defer making the cuts until 2011-12.

He added: "This will be a decision for the Scottish government and Holyrood. If they want to get going sooner, they can do that."

A spokesman for Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney accused the UK parties of being in disarray over Scotland's budget.

"They are all clearly feeling the heat over the Scottish government's demand that there are no more Westminster-imposed cuts in 2010-11," he said.

"Alistair Darling has dodged the question. Vince Cable suggested that Scotland's budget would increase even as Nick Clegg talks about £60bn cuts, and, with a typically Tory sting in the tail, George Osborne would impose double the pain the year after."

Mr Salmond hopes to meet with Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats when he travels to Westminster for the forthcoming UK Budget debates.

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