DEVASTATING cuts to Scotland’s budget will cost the country enough cash to pay for 18,000 nurses, police officers and classroom staff, it is claimed.

Independent analysis by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) reveals the impact of planned budget changes set to hit Holyrood within the next few years.

It shows more than £2.6 billion could be wiped from the country’s discretionary budget by 2019-20.

According to the SNP, the sum is enough to pay for a host of staff and infrastructure supporting vital public services, including one new “world class” hospital with 2,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses, plus 5,000 police officers.

Alongside this, the cash could also deliver 70 new schools, 3,000 teachers and 5,000 classroom assistants – as well as a “substantial” upgrade to the rail network, with enough left over to cover the Scottish Government’s contribution to two city deals.

The sums are based on the expectation that the discretionary budget – the fiscal departmental expenditure limit – will shrink by more than nine per cent in real terms against the 2010-11 level.

This follows comments made by Chancellor Philip Hammond when delivering the autumn statement.

SPICe said: “The 9.4 per cent reduction equates to a reduction of £2,636 million.”

SNP Finance Committee member Ash Denham MSP said: “The autumn statement was an embarrassing admission by the Chancellor that the Tories have completely failed on the economy over the past six years of austerity. Inexplicably their response is to pile on even more austerity.”

Denham, who represents Edinburgh Eastern, said: “The SNP has consistently called for a modest rise in public spending to allow our economy to prosper and we are taking responsible steps, such as our half billion pound Growth Scheme, to help Scottish companies expand, boost exports and create new jobs.

“But sadly the fact remains that Westminster is still responsible for the majority of funding for our public services.”

The public service shopping list is based on figures including average salaries, the median estimated capital cost for primary and secondary schools and other calculations carried out by government agencies.

This suggests a price tag of £842m for a new hospital, £127.7m for 5,000 nurses and £16m for rail upgrades.

Responding, the UK Government said the Scottish Government’s resource block grant is going up and the SNP-led administration should “stop making excuses”.

A spokesperson said: “The UK Government is building an economy that works for everyone.

“The autumn statement has made over £820m more infrastructure funding for the Scottish Government to invest through to 2020-21. The Scottish Government’s resource block grant is set to rise every year to 2019-20.

"We’ve transferred around £12bn-worth of income tax powers to Holyrood, giving the Scottish Government the power to raise funding through their own taxes.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to stop making excuses. New powers over income tax mean the Scottish Government can raise more in tax to fund higher spending if that is what they want. That is their choice, and they will need to account for it to the people of Scotland.”

Green MSP said Ross Greer said: “The cuts coming from Westminster underline the need for independence so Scotland can choose a fairer approach. But it’s also a challenge to the Scottish Government to show what’s possible with devolved powers. By building an anti-poverty budget with progressive taxes we can start to repair the damage done by the Tories.

“We hope the SNP will compromise in this direction to pass their budget in the new year. We all campaigned for these powers – now we must use them.”