Page last updated at 00:08 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Darling slams Salmond over budget

Alistair Darling talks to BBC Scotland's Politics Show

Alistair Darling has hit back after First Minister Alex Salmond urged him to ditch plans for efficiency savings.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, the chancellor said he did not believe the Scottish Government could not be more efficient.

Mr Salmond has claimed the 5bn worth of savings, announced in the UK pre-Budget report, would cost them 500m.

A first minister spokesman accused Mr Darling of slashing Scotland's public spending in the middle of a recession.

Mr Darling said the SNP administration had "much more money" than when the Scottish Parliament was established.

He said: "We've said we need to get 5bn worth of efficiencies out of the system, when you're spending over 600bn a year, most people will think if they're pulling in their belt, why can't government.

"I just do not believe that Alex Salmond can stand up, hand on heart and say that the Scottish Government can't be more efficient.

He has merely confirmed that he is going to slash Scotland's public spending in the teeth of a recession
First minister's spokesman

"For goodness sake every organisation in the world can be more efficient if it puts its mind to it.

"It's not too much to ask and I think rather than blustering about it he might be better employed sitting down and working out how the Scottish Government could be more efficient."

Mr Darling said the exact amount of savings in Scotland were still to be determined.

In a reference to Mr Salmond's decision to drop plans to replace the council tax with a local income tax, Mr Darling added: "I would have thought Alex Salmond could, now he doesn't have the local income tax to pursue, he might have time on his hands to deal with this."

A spokesman for the first minster described Mr Darling as a "slash and burn" chancellor.

"He has merely confirmed that he is going to slash Scotland's public spending in the teeth of a recession," he said.

"These are direct cuts to Scotland's education, health, and housing budgets, which will cost jobs."

He claimed that a pro-rata cut equated to cuts of 1bn from 2010/11 to 2011/12.

"The Scottish Government is delivering an effective economic recovery programme, and it is vitally important that it is not undermined by Westminster-imposed cuts to public spending in Scotland," he added.

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