A SCOTTISH Conservative motion aimed at having Holyrood agree to cancel plans for a second independence referendum has failed.

Instead, the motion passed with an amendment put forward by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, which deleted the text proposed by the Tory benches in its entirety.

The Scottish Conservatives had put forward an opposition debate on the country’s “Economic Priorities”, with a motion put forward by their finance spokesperson, Liz Smith MSP.

Smith’s motion called on Parliament to say it was “deeply concerned” with Scotland’s economic trajectory, about “real-terms cuts of more than £1 billion announced by the Scottish Government”, and called for “plans for a second independence referendum to be taken off the table”.

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The fiery debate, which involved a wide range of contributions from MSPs of every party, eventually resulted in Forbes’s amendment passing by 67 votes to 53, with one abstention.

This amendment from the SNP minister instead “endorse[d] the priorities set out in the Scottish Government’s spending review of tackling child poverty, addressing the climate crisis, building a stronger economy and improving public services”.

The motion as passed then ended with Parliament saying “that, with full control over the economic and financial powers, the Scottish Government could take further action to build the economy that Scotland deserves”.

The debate focused on the four-year Resource Spending Review announced by Forbes last week.

The plan aims to stave off what the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted could be a £3.5 billion spending shortfall by 2026/27 by taking measures including shrinking of the workforce down to pre-Brexit, pre-pandemic levels. 

Local government is also due to have its funding frozen for the rest of the parliamentary term.

Budgets for the police, prisons, justice, universities and rural affairs are all set to fall by around 8%, while spending on enterprise, tourism and trade promotion is set to fall by 16% in real terms over the next four years.

The SNP members pinned the blame for the need to make cuts on the failures of the Tory mismanagement of the economy.

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The Finance Secretary (above) said the UK Government has “the macro-economic levers to fully address the cost of living crisis. And they have spectacularly failed to manage our economy in a way that works for businesses and works for households".

She went on: "Poverty is rising. Costs are rising. The energy price cap is rising. Living standards are falling, growth rates are dropping and competitiveness is sliding under the Conservatives.”

She said Scotland was trying to fight an economic crisis with "one hand tied behind our back".

“This year alone, whatever the Conservatives say, I tend to believe independent commentators, this year alone, Scotland's budget has been reduced in real terms by 5.2%. 

“And if we look across the whole four-year period of the Resource Spending Review, our real terms funding is to grow by only 2%, after accounting for the devolution of Social Security benefits. 

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“The current fiscal settlement denies us even the most modest of borrowing powers that most governments across the world would have access to - powers that Scotland would have as an independent state.”

Tory MSP Smith, her party's finance spokesperson, claimed the block grant from the UK Government was the "highest that we've had in history".

She said that Scotland's competitiveness was being threatened by "divergence from the UK income tax rate ... which is why we want to see a return to parity as soon as resources allow".

Scotland has a staggered "progressive" income tax rate which means low-earners pay slightly less on their wages than their higher-earning peers. MSPs claimed the Tories' calls for parity with the rest of the UK amounted to calls for tax breaks for the rich.

Smith further claimed the public would “find it very difficult to understand” why the Scottish Government was cutting the budget for policing, local government, trade, enterprise and universities.

“And this is exactly the same public who will see the profligacy of the SNP government wasting vast sums of public money on ferries that don't sail, BiFab, Prestwick airport, the malicious Rangers prosecution, the list goes on," she added. "And of course, there is the £20 million preparing for a second referendum.”

Responding later in the debate, SNP MSP Christine Grahame listed a variety of ways in which the UK Government had squandered public funds.

“I have to wonder what planet, indeed what UK they live in,” Grahame (below) started.

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“We are, and will remain, at the economic mercy of the UK Government until such time as we are independent of it.”

“Waste? This is the waste of the UK Government: Festival of Brexit, £120m, Track and Trace, £37bn, HS2, £112bn at least, ferries that didn’t exist, ordered by Chris Grayling, £81m – oh there’s more to come!" she added to jeers from the Tory benches.

“Nimrods, nine scrapped in 2011, £4.2bn, Boris’s London Garden Bridge, £43m and never built. Crossrail cost £4bn above its £40.8bn budget. PPE contracts to Tories, there’s a great big list. An economic tsunami which Scotland did not vote for.”

Labour MSP Paul Sweeney accused the SNP of burying its "head in the sand” by blaming the UK Government.

He said: “Rather than address the failures that you have presided over, the Scottish Government have done the usual.

“Pointing the finger at Whitehall, highlighting the failings of the Tories – rightly in that case – but it also attempts to distract from the myriad of failings that they themselves as a government have presided over.”

The debate in Holyrood came after Labour peer George Foulkes attempted to get the UK Government to move to block devolved administrations from spending in reserved areas – including on a second referendum