danieljohnsonDaniel Johnson, Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh Southern in next year’s Scottish election, says a central plank of the SNP’s attack on Labour has been exposed as baseless, by Nicola Sturgeon herself. He says she must now explain why she and her party knowingly misled the public during the general election.


The  SNP’s most wounding attack line against Labour during the general election was that we were signed up to £30bn pounds worth of cuts.  Yesterday, in a single sentence, Nicola Sturgeon exposed this claim as utterly baseless.  The honesty and integrity of her general election campaign is now seriously undermined.

We heard it time and time again.  Labour had signed up to Tory Austerity, £30bn of cuts.  It underpineed the charges of “Red Tory” that every Scottish Labour candidate had lobbed at them on the doorstep and at hustings.  They said it so often it became almost impossible to dismiss.  Except it has been exposed as untrue by Nicola Sturgeon’s own words.

The original accusation arose when Labour voted with the government for the Charter for Budget Responsibility on 13th January 2015.  The SNP claimed that in doing so, Labour was required to support Tory spending cuts.  This one vote, supporting this one document, was the sole basis for the charge that Labour supported these Tory cuts.  It is this document that Nicola Sturgeon now claims has the “flexibility” to allow the government to increase spending and, with one sentence, she has revealed the SNP claims to be false.

The SNP were wrong at the time they made the claim.  The Charter does not, and never did, require cuts, and the £30bn figure was very clearly misused.  The Charter for Budget Responsibility, which you can read here, is a simple framework document; it sets out no specific spending requirements and only makes one very broad aim for government spending.  What it requires government to do is adopt “a forward-looking aim to achieve cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the third year of the rolling, 5-year forecast period”.  Note that this is an “aim” not a target or a limit (the government can break it), it is for current spending (big ticket investments are excluded), and it is cyclically adjusted (you can offset economic dips).  In other words, it’s pretty weak.

As for the £30bn figure, the very document it was sourced from contradicts the SNP claim.  The £30bn number was plucked from this release from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.  While the IFS do state that Tory spending plans would require “around £33bn after 2015-2016”, this specifically relates to their commitment to achieving an absolute surplus, which goes far beyond the aim for current spending to balance over 5 years set out in the Charter.  Indeed the very same release states specifically that Labour would only need to find £7bn of current savings, and they subsequently stated Labour’s plans might need as little as £1bn of cuts.

In short, the SNP misled people about the strength of requirements set out in the Charter for Budget Responsibility, and then applied a clearly inappropriate figure to those cuts from a document that explicitly stated a different figure for Labour’s plans.   Their claim that Labour was signed up to £30bn of cuts was wrong in January, it was wrong during the election campaign and it was wrong yesterday, when Nicola Sturgeon finally admitted it.

In a speech yesterday, Tuesday 26th May, the SNP First Minister stated “…the Charter for Budget Responsibility allows the UK Government flexibility to increase spending over its current plans, while still reducing the deficit and the debt.”  Nothing in the Charter has changed.  If it allows “flexibility” now, it did so in January and it did so throughout the election campaign.  Most importantly, if it has this “flexibility” the notion that it requires the government or any party who voted for it to implement £30bn of cuts is plainly, and by her concession, false.

The claim that Labour were “signed up” to £30bn of cuts was a central argument, frequently repeated by the SNP in the general election.  It relied on their assertion that support of the Charter for Budget Responsibility required those cuts.  It is a claim undermined by Nicola Stugeon’s own words.  She now needs to explain how she and her colleagues could make such misleading statements to the public during the general election campaign.


Charter for Budget responsibility:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/386973/charter_for_budget_responsibility_AS2014_web.pdf

Original IFS release:  http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7525

Second IFS release: http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7726

Nicola Sturgeon’s Speech at the Launch for the Scottish Business Pledge 26th May 2015:  http://scottishgovernment.presscentre.com/News/Scottish-Business-Pledge-191f.aspx


SNP use of the £30bn false claim

Stewart Hosie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o75JWUZttzI

Nicola Sturgeon during the STV Leaders’ Debate (8m50s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sot6fr3TREk

Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsojr52EiCw

Pete Wishart on Twitter: https://twitter.com/petewishart/status/583208487846576128

SNP Press Release: http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2015/mar/snp-warn-labour-will-not-end-austerity-its-own

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44 thoughts on “The Charter for Deception?

  1. The real problem was that London Labour were too concerned about peddling the line that they were fiscally responsible that they never really tried or wanted to correct this line.

    The line itself I might add was on numerous occasions also uttered by the Tories. I hope you’s will be equally vociferous in calling for Ruth Davidson’s head to roll too…

    1. Forgive me but in my view “the real problem” is Nicola Sturgeon and every single SNP MP candidate making a false claim about their opposition.

      Instead of whataboutery, the response surely should be contrition?

      1. Not really. People see it for what it was. SNP pushing a political agenda that on some level had a certain credence (but like all matters political was only a partial truth – Tories set out a broad aim that they said required £30bn cuts, Labour signed up but to broad aim, but only really whispered that they didn’t want to cut to the same degree). Labours response of floundering about trying to please everyone came across as completely inept, conviction-less and unworthy of office.

        Now this really does some up Labours issue. They had a policy platform that was on the face of it appealing to the Scottish electorate (and by definition the rUK too seeing as we’re so similar), the SNP simply presented the same ideas with more conviction and belief and had polls that showed it mightn’t be a wasted vote. London Labour tried to mask those policies behind a guise of being Tories with a conscience as did the Lib Dems and both parties took a trouncing for their troubles.

        Policies are one thing but at some point Labour have to win back the trust of the electorate, the two Ed’s simply weren’t believable enough for that and poor Jim was on a hiding to nothing. (although like many SNP voters Milliband began to grow on me by the end and regardless I sincerely wished Labour had done enough in England to form a govt)

        My suggestion would be to remember who the real opposition is, fight the tories and all their insanities with tenacity and conviction and stop haranguing the SNP and their voters at every turn, most of whom after all are politically well aligned on many matters with Labour and you’ll start to win people over. Some acknowledgement of the constitutional mess that is UK politics and a positive devolutionist solution might help too.

      2. It’s probably why we’ve not heard much from SNP re Alistair Carmichael resignation over his gaffe
        it’s just not cricket to lie in a GE if they’ve got elected on the back of lies it should be exposed but never seen that on SNP er! Scottish News

    2. Yvette Cooper challenged the line on Question Time on 16th April and Angus Robertson repeated it, backed up by Grant Shapps.

      There were plenty within the party challenging this line, and the fact is Ruth Davidson hasn’t yet admitted that the CBR doesn’t commit to £30 billion of cuts where as Sturgeon has.

      Also, I don’t think “the SNP lied, but they weren’t challenged about it enough” is a very good defence of the party’s behaviour.

      The wider issue here for Labour is that SNP has been found to either exaggerate economic figures or suggest bad economic policy on three recent occasions:
      1) Oil Price figures during Indy Referendum
      2) CBR requiring £30 billion of cuts
      3) FFA – 3 days after the election was described by their own party as “economic madness” without subsidies from rUK.

      And yet the SNP are still as popular as ever. In many ways it shows the mountain Labour has to climb to get voters to listen to them again since they’ve be making the case on all three of these points for months and few are listening.

  2. Will there be £30.b of cuts coming down the pipeline over the next five years? More than that? As was said above the Tories used this figure. Five, or so, Labour MP’s abstained from voting with it. Labour however did vote with it “in principle”as Ed Balls said. Fact is Labour voted with the Tories for crippling austerity.Then came out with the “creeping forward” scenario of austerity lite.If you vote for something I would say you are “signed up” for it.Unless of course they were all lying!

    1. Well done on *completely* ignoring the point.

      Labour MPs did *not* vote on the £30bn figure. They voted on the CBR, saying that that did *not* commit them to such cuts, and Sturgeon has literally just confirmed that they were right.

      Let me say that again: Nicola Sturgeon yesterday *confirmed* that a vote for the CBR was *not* a vote for austerity cuts. That was what Labour said throughout the election campaign. Unfortunately the SNP lied about it throughout the election campaign, and Nicola has only just decided to start telling the truth.

  3. The point being made here is beyond ridiculous. In essence you are saying Labour didn’t sign up to 33 billion of cuts, but that they only signed up to the aim of making 33 billion of cuts.

    Good luck with that.

    I know labour politicians are not the only ones that treat the electorate with contempt, but it’s surprising to me that Duncan allowed such a contemptuous and self-defeating argument to be made on here.

    Do yourself a favour and delete this article — it makes you all look totally corrupt.

    1. No. Again you either misunderstand or are deliberately misrepresenting. Given your past comments I suspect the latter.

      What we signed up to was the CBR. The CBR does not specify *any* level of cuts. That’s why Nicola Sturgeon was able to say, yesterday, that it was possible to increase spending above current plans within the terms of the CBR. And that was precisely what Labour had been saying too.

      What this article clearly sets out is that the SNP lied about what Labour signed up to. You’re still lying about it. You should stop.

    2. Thank you. The “hair splitting” on this IS riduculous. Labour “signed up” with the Tories for Tory major austerity whichever way you slice the semantic cake.

  4. It’s all well and good saying the SNP ‘misled’ people. Is this something new? Is this not something every political party, including Labour do?
    The problem wasn’t the SNP, it was Labour’s inability to answer the accusation effectively.

    1. There is spin, and there are total barefaced lies.

      The SNP clearly made the decision that lying to the electorate would benefit more than hinder them. The sad and difficult truth is that they were right in that.

      This wasn’t just a bit of avoidance. The “Red Tories voted for £30bn of Tory Cuts” rhetoric was a massive part of the SNP’s positioning. That Sturgeon is comfortable kicking away one of the three legs of the SNP’s general election campaign says much about the perilous and hysterical state of Scottish Politics.

      Compared to this whopper, the fact that Carmichael initially denied leaking a memo to the press is small potatoes. No doubt the army of SNP supporters currently hounding Carmichael will now be asking Sturgeon and the Senior SNP leadership to step down. But I won’t hold my breath.

  5. The charge stuck because we let it. We didn’t level on the Economy- Ed Balls line last week re better to run a small surplus than an a deficit was more realistic.
    No Western Government could have retained a budget surplus faced with the Financial services collapse.

    The reliance on one economic sector was a problem.

    Re the SNP 4 economic policies in a decade – why did they have any economic credibility ? That is what we as a party should address.

  6. The hypocrisy of the SNP and their supporters is astonishing.
    Sadly the evident nature of such whopping great lies will make no difference to the Nationalists, who will rationalise the reality gap away as always.

    A similar hypocrisy is on display with Salmonds recent pronouncement that the SNP would be happy to campaign with the Tories for EU membership.
    Weeks after Labour were vilified for doing the same with better together.

  7. It is astonishing that something could be explained so clearly and yet still not be understood – it is a terrifying indication of the struggle Labour faces in the coming months to open peoples eyes to what is going on.

  8. Can we all be honest and admit first off that the CBR was nothing other than meritless political bragadoccio at the time of its devision, and remains so. That it does not contain, and never has contained, any genuine constraint on government spending?

    If Labour and the nationalists were so far apart on spending, one would imagine the IFS would have noticed in its pre-election analyses. The spending proposals were very similar. That’s an uncomfortable reality, or at least should be, for everyone who gleefully crucified the Scotlab party pre-election.

    The CBR was wedged between traditional lab voters up north, and swing voters in the marginals down south. The SNP and the Tories duplicitously hammered the message home from both flanks. The result? We’ve ended up with 56 lobby fodderists and a Tory government. Excellent outcome guys. It was all definitely worth it.

  9. I have to say, the SNP defence that “we lied but you didn’t expose us lying so it’s not our fault” is a corker.

    Nicola Sturgeon made it clear during the campaign that the CBR meant £30bn of cuts – Jim Murphy called her out on this during the STV debate – now she says exactly what we were saying: you can agree within the aim of balancing the books but the CBR is not prescriptive in how you reach your target.

    Angus Robertson repeated the lie in Parliament yesterday – he obviously didn’t get the memo after Sturgeon’s speech.

  10. If you think the Tory austerity bill was the only reason behind the Red Tory tag you haven’t been paying attention.

    There was also voting with the Tories to retrospectively amend the law to help IDS with Workfare & voting for the welfare cap, there was Johann’s use of Thatchers “something for nothing” rhetoric. Going back further there an entire 13 year track record of Neo-Lib Labour party with more betrayals of the working class than I could fit in here.

    You may be able to justify some or all of these but that’s not the point, the point is the tell a story, it’s a strong story, it’s one that the electorate believe & it’s why you will be stuck with the Red Tory tag for a while yet.

    If Labour want to make a comeback & prevent the Tories becoming the main opposition at Holyrood next year you are going to have to face this head on.

    1. This is actually a great point. The Red Tory tag has a myriad of sources. And the thing is, despite Sturgeon’s obvious duplicity on this matter, Scottish Labour have done nothing high profile to kick start the turnaround using this as a opening issue.
      I don’t like this idea that Scots are economic illiterates who can’t tell a decent party policy from a bad one. There is two issues to my mind: the muddying of the waters by Nationalist claims to different financial records and national incomes – often at complete odds to the official figures generated by the Scottish Govt (!) and, secondly, this tedious way Labour has of talking about the Scottish economy. If we are going to keep focusing on promoting ourselves as economic gurus then we need to find a far better way to engage and get the TRUE figures out there!

      1. The majority of voters aren’t looking for economic gurus, they’re looking for someone who shares their values & who they believe will be on their side against powerful vested interests, for the majority of voters in Scotland clearly that is now the SNP.

        The fact that the Red Tory accusation has become so commonly accepted shows how far Labour have moved away from what people in Scotland want from a party.

        The question now is what are Labour going to do about it?

        1. We must have been offering something they wanted, otherwise why would the SNP have copied half our manifesto?

          1. I’ve said in another post that a lot of what Labour offered during the election was good, far more progressive than we’ve seen in years.

            The problem you have is your track record at Westminster from Blair onwards, including the failure to oppose Cameron properly means the electorate aren’t willing to listen to you anymore. Until Labour start being honest about why your perceived as being nothing more than red tories by so many former supporters you can’t start on the road to recovery.

            The Labour party really need to stop pointing fingers at others & look a bit closer to home for the cause of your demise & for the solution.

          2. Yes Jim I agree with you. The Red Tory tag belonged elsewhere. But we have allowed others to do our marketing and branding work for us.

    2. Basically, you’ve moved onto the next flawed rationalisation.
      Cognitive Dissonance doesn’t even begin to explain the yawning reality gap in your view on the world.

  11. I’m terribly sorry. It is unclear who you are talking to or what your actual point is. Could you expand please? LOL and also point out if it is Jim or myself you are seeking to insult?

    1. You should be sorry. 5 years of unfettered tory rule.
      Thanks for that.

      I was merely pointing out how, being confronted with the astonishing dishonestly in how the SNP deliberately and repeatedly lied to their electorate, you’ve simply shrugged it off and moved along to another argument.

      The fact that this is happening as a nationalist lynch mob goes after Carmichael for leaking a factually accurate memo is beyond Ironic.

      1. Who has “shrugged it off”? We’ve agreed that the Red Tory tag was harmful, but Sturgeon screaming £30 billion at every turn is not the only reason it exists. The SSP people who hounded Jim Murphy complained about “Imperialism” and the war mongering that went on under Blair. How does focusing only on the SNP lies impact on rectifying the damage done over supporting the war in Iraq, for example?

  12. To be honest, what the labour Party should be concentrating on is how it came to this? How the tag Red Tory managed to stick and ring true amongst so many …. Scottish Labour have to do some serious soul-searching – in my own humble opinion, if they do not become an independent party they will constantly be dragged into what they perceive as the UK ‘electable ground’ ie the centre-right, and will continue to receive – and deserve – the Red Tory moniker

  13. I’m sorry but I dont think that the Labour party should concede that Scottish politics is intrinsically more left of centre than is UK politics.

    If that were the case one might expect to see it reflected in social attitudes surveys and particularly in the administration of devolved affairs.

    Public spending on crime/security under the current gov’t in Scotland has increased considerably relative to the UK over the lifetime of SNP government, while spending on education and training has gone in the opposite direction. Consider that in the context of a culture of middle class bribery (bus passes/eye tests/free prescriptions/free tuition/7 year council tax freeze) and I don’t see the policy or governmental credentials to match the nationalist rhetoric.

    Was it Stephen Daisley who wrote recently that we haven’t voted for a left wing stance as much as a left wing pose? I wholeheartedly agree. We shouldn’t concede the particularity of Scottish politics because firstly I don’t think it exists, and secondly because it concedes a central plank of the nationalist position. We are not the nationalist party, or nationalists. Quite the opposite, otherwise I wouldn’t be a member. In my view we shouldn’t dance to their tune on “Scottish particularity”.

    One good thing about Smith is that it gives considerable control over tax decisions to holyrood. Finally, hopefully, the SNP will start to be held accountable for their near decade of government in Scotland.

    It’s never been clear to me why we should accept worse outcomes in health and education, when our government (which also has tax raising powers from the 98 Act and the 2012 Act) has had more money to spend per head of population.

    If we really are a frustrated socialist utopia aching to be freed from Westminster’s shackles, let’s start to see it in devolved politics.

  14. It is difficult to understand why sturgeons stunning about face on this one isnt all over the national press. Demonstrably, the snp calculated that they would benefit more from lying to the electorate than not, no doubt bouyed up by the knowledge that they succesfully encouraged their followers to ignore legitimate criticism in the regulated media (aka the establishmentlizardpeopleconspiracy). But this wasnt just spin, this was the foundation of their campaign. I suppose its no surprise to some that the nationalists are disingenuous. But the fact that sturgeon can so readily contradict her own lies with little scrutiny or comment is jaw dropping. The snp make a meal out of their faux persecution complex. The reality is, the media appear to give them a somewhat easy ride, lazily focusing on the snp generated mythologising, rather than the hard work of unpicking their record of government.

  15. If what can be described as Scottish media/journalism were actually of any use these days, there would be far more scrutiny of what goes on in the Scottish Parliament. Unfortunately it appears useless and doomed to just churn out the press releases it’s presented with without question.

    Secondly, if the Labour party wasn’t chasing its own tail all the time and actually had a clear vision about how to serve the electorate, then it might actually have been able to have address the point above (and others) when it mattered, rather than after the horse has bolted . . .

    1. Agree with the former wholeheartedly, and there is some truth in the Latter, though this does not excuse the jaw dropping dishonesty and opportunism in the SNPs campaign.

      I do hope that Kezia Dugdale will use PMQs to politely asking Mrs Sturgeon if, now she has admitted that the SNP and its senior leadership repeatedly and deliberately lied to the electorate, if they will do the honorable thing and stand down.

      If nothing else it will get the media to pay attention.

  16. Although the Charter does not specifically mention austerity or cuts or £30 million, it makes clear that it includes implicit support for the government’s economic policies. “Section 1(2) of the Act requires that the Charter includes the government’s objectives for fiscal policy and its objective for the management of the national debt, its fiscal mandate, and the minimum requirements of the Financial Statement and Budget Report (“the Budget Report”).”
    And again in 2.1 “The Charter sets out the government’s commitment to managing fiscal policy in accordance with clear objectives and its fiscal mandate.”
    There is also a built-in acceptance of an “accountant’s view” of spending. Also why is expenditure on welfare the only form of spending to be treated like this in the first place? Section 3.4 states the aim “To ensure that expenditure on welfare remains sustainable, the Treasury’s mandate for fiscal policy is further supplemented by the cap on welfare spending, at a level set out by the Treasury in the most recently published Budget report, over the rolling 5-year forecast period, to ensure that expenditure on welfare is contained within a predetermined ceiling.” So, admittedly, no specific commitment to £30bn cuts but why commit yourself to this aim at all if you’re unhappy about the government’s plans on welfare?
    And the SNP were hardly the only ones criticising Labour on this issue in these terms. Labour MP Diane Abbot had this to say about her colleagues when she rebelled along with four of her colleagues against the Charter “I was hugely disappointed yesterday to see the Labour Party vote in favour of further austerity and in doing so we have done hardworking people a great disservice. Instead of simply mimicking current practices we should be offering a solid alternative through investment in public services to create real and sustainable growth.”
    Of course Labour is off the hook on this now that it has lost the election and its activists can swear blind that it never intended to implement such savage cuts. However, in government it would have had to deal with the OBR and it is certain that its officials would have been knocking on Ed Ball’s door with copies of the charter clutched in their grubby little hands at the first hint of backsliding.

    1. So you disagree with Nicola Sturgeon’s statement that it’s entirely possible to be flexible with spending under the terms of the CBR? She’s now saying we can end austerity under the CBR, just like Labour said throughout the campaign. You’re saying she’s wrong? I think the evidence suggests she is, now, eventually, right. She’s just been utterly dishonest about it up to now.

  17. I’ve not read her statement, Duncan, and will do when I’ve a minute to search for it but I suspect she is trying to seek Labour’s help in applying as much pressure on the Tories as possible. Now that both Milliband and Balls are out the picture it is possible that Labour can turn its back on last year’s strategies and she is clearly indicating the SNP will not use them against what is the biggest opposition party at Westminster.

    1. Not good enough, sorry. She needs to explain why she and every SNP MP lied about this during the campaign. And then she needs to apologise to the voters she lied to, and the party she lied about. Then, and only then, can we look at being able to work together.

      1. Have you considered the possibility that if Labour had spent as much time & energy across the UK shouting Tories bad as they did in Scotland shouting SNP bad things may have turned out differently?

        If the PLPs “Bain principal” had been about refusing to work with the Tories instead of the SNP & labour hadn’t helped the Tories get around a legal ruling to impose workfare, hadn’t voted for the welfare cap & hadn’t voted for the Tory austerity measures (seriously, you must have known how that would play out) the party may not be in the mess it’s in now.

        I’m an SNP member but still believe Scotland needs a strong Labour party, none of us want the Tories to be the official opposition in Holyrood next year.

        If you’re going to get through this Labour needs to take ownership of its own problems & not go looking for other people or parties to apologise for what’s happened to them.

    2. Be in no doubt: the SNP were not saying Labour’s economic policy was not a good one. They were not saying they had read it and found it wanting. They said that Labour’s economic policy was the Tory’s economic policy. That was a direct smear and falsehood.

      1. If that was the case, Helen, why did five of their MPs, Diane Abbott, Katy Clark, Dennis Skinner, Austin Mitchell and Roger Godsiff all vote against the Charter? Abbott herself described it as signing up to Tory austerity. Your protests and the attempts here to smear the SNP as liars are directly contradicted by five of your MPs. Are they liars too?

  18. Duncan, can you send a proper link to the speech please? The one you’ve supplied sends us to a page which does not refer to the Charter.
    The only quote you supply from her “speech” does not prove she is a liar. On the contrary, as I have pointed out above, “The Charter sets out the government’s commitment to managing fiscal policy in accordance with clear objectives and its fiscal mandate.” This basically means that the coalition government will run the economy as per its policy, which at that time, as Labour MP Diane Abbot pointed out, involved heavy austerity cuts. So, as far as I can see, the only quote you use from the speech, if indeed there was such a speech, “…the Charter for Budget Responsibility allows the UK Government flexibility to increase spending over its current plans, while still reducing the deficit and the debt.” is simply telling the Conservative government it has the option to alter its specific austerity plans. It does not undermine Ms Abbot’s nor the SNP’s claim that Labour signed a document accepting Tory austerity at a time when that involved cuts of £30 billion.

  19. It’s a bit late for Labour to start denying that they didn’t really intend to cut welfare etc by the same degree as Tory. All of their language suggested they wouldn’t reverse Tory cuts, would match Tory cuts, would resolutely resist reversing cuts in the Arts budget (brilliant move for keeping friends on board). The time to defend yourselves against the SNP’s accusations was before the election. Now your complaints seem pathetic.

  20. We have a Tory government because you fools spent two years hand-in-hand with them telling everyone to vote No. It could have been avoided in Scotland with a Yes vote.

    You argued that only with a Labour vote would Socialist policies be realized yet I see precious little evidence of Socialism in the UK Labour party now. You just lurch further & further to the right because you put your own careers before socialist principles.

    You lot are shameless.

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