SNP Government under fire over Westminster attacks in flagship economy paper

The Scottish Government has come under fire from a leading think-tank for spending too much time attacking Westminster in its flagship  economic analysis.

The Fraser of Allander Institute also hits out at the lack of analysis and forward planning in Derek Mackay's medium term financial strategy (MTFS) which was set out set out last week.

The document is aimed at setting out the sustainability of Scotland's public finances and was published as the country's economic watchdog - the Scottish Fiscal Commission - warned of a £1 billion black hole in the country's public finances.

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But the Strathclyde University-based Institute today warned Mr Mackay's strategy needed "much more detail" on future plans and "appropriate assessments of risk and future opportunities."

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Much of the focus was spent criticising Westminster austerity cuts over the last decade, it adds in an online commentary.

"This is of course important context for the MTFS and many will disagree with the UK Government’s approach," it states.

"But why so much time was spent on looking back over a decade – as oppose to the outlook for Scotland – was surprising."

it also questions whether the "upbeat tone" of the strategy offer the full picture of the outlook in Scotland.

It adds: "The MTFS reports a number of economic statistics which it argues shows that “2018 was a positive year for the Scottish economy”.

“This is true. But a forward looking financial assessment would usually reflect the full suite of economic statistics available, some of which show growth below trend, real earnings lower than a decade ago, productivity lagging key competitors and rising in-work poverty."

The "lack off assessment" for the reasons behind the £1 billion shortfall in income tax over the next few years, unveiled last week, also comes under fire.

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The Institute adds: "This document does little to add clarity with regard to the medium term financial risks and opportunities facing the Scottish budget."

Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the document Institute's intervention was a "withering attack" on the Scottish Government’s stewardship of the economy.

“Derek Mackay was supposed to set out in detail the future prospects for the country’s finances, and how he intended to mitigate risks and rise to the many challenges ahead," he said.

“Instead, he went on a political rant about the UK Government, in an effort to hide his own administration’s failings."

But a spokesman person for Derek Mackay hit back at the record of Mr Fraser's party.

"The Tories have zero credibility on the economy, which is suffering massive uncertainty as a result of their shambolic handling of Brexit, while their obsession with austerity has seen Scotland’s budget cut by £2 billion in real terms over a decade," he added.

"To make matters worse, they want to cut public services like the NHS by a further £500 million to pay for tax cuts for the richest.”