SCOTTISH Labour chief Anas Sarwar has been accused of “airbrushing austerity” after defending Westminster’s funding of public services over the last few years.

The MSP’s intervention came as the SNP argued that it is “unfair” for oil and gas, an industry-based mainly in Scotland, to fund the windfall tax.

Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans for the tax on energy companies to help the cost-of-living crisis – with the SNP saying 90% of that cash would come from north of the Border.

Based on data from the House of Commons Library, the party predicts that £4.5 billion of the £5bn the UK Government estimates the levy will raise will come from Scotland.

If this £4.5bn was retained in Scotland, their analysis shows it would give a cash boost of £1800 to each Scottish household to tackle rising energy costs.

The National:

After Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman (above) made a similar argument on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, suggesting the levy should have been placed on all companies making extra profits during the pandemic – rather than focused on the oil and gas sector.

She went on: “If Scotland was an independent country the windfall tax would generate £1800 for every household in Scotland, so it feels like we are paying the price for the Chancellor’s failures here.”

But Scottish Labour leader Sarwar disagreed with the analysis – arguing the tax is a benefit of the Union.

“When the oil and gas industry crashed, taxes from across the UK kept public services funded,” he claimed.

“Now - as companies take in billions - oil and gas giants should help alleviate poverty in Glasgow and Liverpool.

“That is an argument for the UK, not independence.”

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Since the Tories came to power in 2010, there have been major spending cuts as part of the party’s austerity agenda.

Upon entering government then, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition set out plans for the biggest cuts to state spending since the Second World War. That included big cuts to social security for the most vulnerable, and the planned loss of 900,000 public sector jobs.

In 2019, Scotland’s finance secretary warned that continued austerity from the Westminster government meant that “£12bn less has been invested in Scottish public services” during the 2010s.

And according to The Guardian, for every £100 spent on public services in 2010, just £86 is spent in real terms now.

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Michelle Thomson, SNP MSP for Falkirk East, was highly critical of Sarwar’s argument.

“Scotland’s public services have suffered more than a decade of Tory cuts, but now Anas Sarwar has become an apologist for those cuts and airbrushing austerity by incredibly arguing that Westminster control has kept public services funded,” she said.

“The windfall tax is once again Westminster using Scotland as its cash cow whenever it feels like it, as 90% of the revenue will come from profits made in Scotland.

“That is what the people of Scotland get under Westminster control – cuts to services and then banking on our resources to prop them up when they need it.”

Thomson went on: “Anas Sarwar’s Labour Party failed to capitalise on Scotland’s oil and gas sector and that legacy is being felt now with thousands of households in fuel poverty and terrified to open their bills when they land on their doorstep.

“This is not the first time we have seen Anas Sarwar cosy up to the Tories and, as his grubby deals with the Tories in councils across Scotland show, it will not be the last.”

The National: It comes after Sarwar prompted anger across Scotland last week by doing a deal with the Tories to run Edinburgh Council.

Prior to the May election, Sarwar ruled out formal coalitions with opposition parties.

But on Thursday Labour turned on the SNP, their former coalition partners in the capital, and decided to work with LibDem and Conservatives instead.

There are at least five other councils across Scotland where Labour have struck deals despite the SNP being the largest group.