ANAS Sarwar has been urged to apologise for “misleading voters” after he told a BBC debate that Labour would not bring in austerity – two days before the party’s manifesto suggested that’s exactly what they will do.

The SNP have torn into the Scottish Labour group leader after the i newspaper front page on Thursday reported that Keir Starmer is “set to announce big cuts to public services” if he wins power in the General Election on July 4.

The newspaper’s political editor Hugo Gye reported that senior Labour insiders had admitted that “really difficult” decisions about cuts to public services would have to be made under a Starmer government given his manifesto pledges not to increase a host of taxes, including income tax, national insurance, and VAT.

Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said: “Unless they get lucky on growth, [Labour] would either have to do more on tax rises that they haven’t told us about, or they would have to deliver cuts to the public services that have already been hit by the austerity of the 2010s."

Labour have consistently claimed that they will not need to increase taxes or cut public services because economic growth will plug any holes in their budget.

Launching their manifesto on Thursday, Starmer again repeated that “growth” is his number one priority, above issues like child poverty or protecting the NHS.

However, speaking in a BBC Scotland General Election debate earlier this week, Sarwar told viewers: “Read my lips: no austerity under Labour.”

The SNP have now called on the Scottish Labour boss to apologise for his “false claims” – highlighting how the phrase “read my lips, no new taxes” was made famous by US president George Bush snr, who raised taxes two years later.

Drew Hendry, the SNP’s economy spokesperson at Westminster and candidate for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, said: “Anas Sarwar's pledge lasted just two days before it was rubbished by his Westminster leaders and independent experts.

“Mr Sarwar must now apologise for misleading voters and admit which services will face the chop under his party's cuts.

"Unlike Labour, the SNP will always stand up for Scotland and oppose Westminster cuts. If elected, the SNP will hold a Labour government to account and defend public services.

"On July 4, vote SNP to protect public services and secure a future made in Scotland - for Scotland."

READ MORE: John Swinney rows back on SNP's 'independence negotiations' pledge in BBC interview

In a letter to Sarwar on Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn further challenged the Scottish Labour chief, writing: "Either you are so out of the loop with your Westminster leaders that you don't understand their plans, or you are deliberately misleading voters to avoid admitting where the axe will fall."

The SNP have pointed repeatedly to analysis from the IFS think tank which found that the Tories’ current “fiscal rules”, which Labour have emphatically signed up to, “imply real-terms cuts to public investment of 2.6% per year over the next parliament”.

Separately, the IFS also reported that – other than protected budgets such as defence and health – “most [UK government] departments will face real-terms cuts averaging 3% per year”.

READ MORE: Scots back independence and Tories face total wipeout, new poll finds

The IFS said that to avoid cuts an extra £18 billion a year will be required to maintain investment levels by 2029-30, and an extra £20bn a year will be needed to avoid cuts to the day-to-day spending of government departments.

The IFS said in late May: “The precise figures are less important than the fact that there are cuts on the way with absolutely zero sense from the main parties about where those might fall."

Hendry said that “voters have a right to know where the axe will fall under Labour's plans for £18bn of cuts, which mean less money available for Scotland's NHS and schools, less money to tackle poverty, and less money to help families with the cost of living”.

In 2022, experts at Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) that austerity under the Tory government likely cost 335,000 lives in an eight-year period from 2012 to 2019.

Labour said their manifesto makes clear there will be no return to austerity on their watch.