Labour ri­vals can’t wait to get their hands on tax­pay­ers’ £3bn

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose SCOT­TISH PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

SCOTS Labour lead­er­ship ri­vals have racked up an eye­wa­ter­ing £3 bil­lion in spend­ing pledges be­tween them, ac­cord­ing to lat­est Scot­tish Tory anal­y­sis.

The com­mit­ments would be funded by crip­pling tax in­creases un­der gov­ern­ments led by ei­ther Anas Sar­war or Richard Leonard.

How­ever, as the Tories at­tacked the Labour can­di­dates, Mr Sar­war fought back by promis­ing to seize upon the ‘ut­ter chaos’ in the UK Gov­ern­ment to win back mid­dle-class vot­ers.

Scot­tish Labour has slipped to third in Holy­rood, coun­cil and West­min­ster elec­tions in re­cent years, be­hind the SNP and Tories.

But who­ever wins the bit­ter Labour lead­er­ship con­test next Satur­day will im­me­di­ately set their sights on Bute House.

Labour has over­taken the Tories in the polls, and the SNP vote con­tin­ues to fall af­ter more than a decade in power. Ac­cord­ing to the Tories, Mr Leonard has pledged £1.6 bil­lion ex­tra spend­ing, and Mr Sar­war £1.4 bil­lion.

In ad­di­tion, Mr Leonard – who is seen as the can­di­date clos­est to Jeremy Cor­byn – has promised a raft of re­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion.

That in­cludes the buy­out of PFI – pub­lic projects us­ing pri­vate fi­nances – which he has es­ti­mated would cost £28.8 bil­lion, al­most the equiv­a­lent of the Scot­tish bud­get.

Mr Sar­war, who is com­mit­ted to a re­view of PFI con­tracts, is also plan­ning ma­jor in­come tax re­form, which would raise £700 mil­lion. His ri­val has pro­posed a ‘wealth tax’ rais­ing £3.7 bil­lion from Scot­land’s mil­lion­aires – although this would have to be signed off by the UK Gov­ern­ment.

Murdo Fraser, Scots Tory fi­nance spokesman, said: ‘This is clear ev­i­dence that, re­gard­less of the out­come, Scot­tish Labour’s dog­matic de­ter­mi­na­tion to na­tion­alise and spend will wreck Scot­land’s econ­omy.’

Mr Sar­war said: ‘Un­der my lead­er­ship, our op­po­si­tion to in­de­pen­dence and a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum will never be in doubt. I give a ca­st­iron guar­an­tee that Scot­tish Labour will never, ever, sup­port the break-up of the UK. We will be a cred­i­ble op­po­si­tion.’

He has been boosted by the back­ing of MSP Jo­hann La­mont who led the Scot­tish party with Mr Sar­war as her deputy. She said: ‘We have the op­por­tu­nity to choose a man who can em­body an out­ward-look­ing, di­verse Labour Party.’

Mr Leonard in­sisted his plans for higher spend­ing would be used to tackle poverty, while mass na­tion­al­i­sa­tion and a new in­dus­trial strat­egy would boost the econ­omy.

He said: ‘I will top up child ben­e­fit by £5 for ev­ery child, tak­ing 30,000 chil­dren out of poverty, and also use our pow­ers to mit­i­gate against the ben­e­fit cap.

‘I will be bolder than the current gov­ern­ment when it comes to sup­port­ing pub­lic own­er­ship, not just for trans­port but for en­ergy and co-op­er­a­tives as well.’

‘Wreck Scot­land’s econ­omy’

SAR­WAR: No to break-up of UK

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