THE SNP have called for Jeremy Hunt not to “take the axe to public services” and warned of the threat of another “decade of Westminster​ austerity” ahead of the UK Budget this week.

The Chancellor has been facing continued pressure from Conservatives to cut taxes on Wednesday in what is likely to be his final Budget before the next General Election.

There have been hints of a cut to National Insurance  – which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described as a “Union tax cut” during a visit to Scotland last week.

But experts have warned that current spending plans already meant further cuts to unprotected public services, which reducing taxes would only exacerbate.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak hints at 'Union tax cut' during Scottish visit

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said there was now a "clear choice” between SNP calls to invest in public services and “Tory and Labour Party plans for another decade of Westminster austerity cuts”.

He said this will be a “major dividing line at the General Election" and urged the Chancellor to invest billions in the NHS and green energy.

He also challenged Hunt to help families with the cost of living by measures such as scrapping energy bill standing charges, as well as boosting public finances by scrapping the non-dom tax status and increasing capital gains tax.

Flynn said: "The next General Election will be a clear choice between the pro-growth SNP and the pro-cuts Tories and Labour, who are starving the UK of economic growth by imposing Brexit and damaging Tory fiscal rules that will see deep austerity cuts to the NHS and public services.

"The UK Government has already slashed Scotland's budget by more than £2 billion this year - and imposed real-terms cuts to the NHS across the UK. Enough is enough.

"Instead of taking the axe to public services, the Chancellor must invest to improve services, boost economic growth and help families with the soaring cost of living in Broken Brexit Britain.

"The SNP are calling on the Chancellor to use the headroom available to boost NHS spending by at least £15bn a year - and help working families by taxing the super rich to fund a £400 annual energy bill discount for households.

"While Sunak and Starmer are slashing green energy investment at the worst possible time, the SNP are calling on the Chancellor to go for growth by investing at least £28bn a year in green energy and rejoining the EU single market. That is the only credible path to sustained growth."

He added: "The clear choice between SNP calls to invest in public services and the economy, and Tory and Labour Party plans for another decade of Westminster austerity cuts will be a major dividing line at the general election.

“Unlike Sunak and Starmer, the SNP will always stand up for Scotland's values, defend our NHS, and demand the investment needed to protect Scotland's interests."

Sunak hinted at a cut to National Insurance in the Spring Budget as he spoke to journalists at the Scottish Tory conference.

He said: “I'm very conscious that the SNP are making life harder for hard-working people by putting their taxes up. I want to make life easier for people. I want to give them the peace of mind that there's a bright future for them and their families.”

READ MORE: Scottish Budget passed as SNP attack 'new age' of Tory austerity

He added: “It is a Union tax cut. It's a tax cut for everyone at work and the contrast between what we're doing and what the SNP government is doing could not be starker.”

But Finance Secretary Shona Robison has defended the Scottish Budget, which was passed last week and includes tax rises for higher earners, saying it represented the Government’s “social contract” with the Scottish people, where though people pay more, they get more in return.

She also told MSPs: “It is unclear to me how the UK Government intends to provide the infrastructure or investment in capital that creates long-term sustainable economic growth when it is hell-bent on returning to a new age of austerity.

“To be clear, if you stand in this chamber today and say that the UK’s income tax bands and rates should be followed here in Scotland, then in the interests of fiscal transparency you need to say where your hammer blow of £1.5bn of cuts would fall.”