Scotland’s deficit will jump to nearly £13bn by the end of this decade after the collapse in oil prices, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The IFS released its updated assessment as Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National party leader, launched her party’s campaign for May’s Holyrood election, urging its 129 candidates to campaign harder than ever to secure a second successive majority government.
With Labour and the Conservatives holding parallel events in Edinburgh after the Scottish parliament was dissolved for the election, Sturgeon said she was relishing the campaign.
“The responsibility on the SNP to offer positive ideas and vision for Scotland’s future has never been greater,” the first minister said. “Scotland needs a government and first minister which will resist Tory austerity at every turn – and stand stronger for Scotland.”
The SNP is heading into the Holyrood election, its first with Sturgeon as its leader, buoyed by a lead over its rivals that is likely to insurmountable. Polls suggest it is on course to win about 70 of Holyrood’s 129 seats, consigning Labour to a difficult battle with the Tories for second place.
But in a further blow to her ultimate goal of independence, the IFS said Scotland’s economic situation was now about £3bn worse than the previous forecast, leaving it facing a deeper overall deficit by 2020 when the UK as a whole is expected to be in surplus.
The dissolution of Holyrood came the day before that nominated as Scotland’s independence day by the then SNP leader Alex Salmond’s during his unsuccessful 2014 referendum campaign. Sturgeon made only an oblique reference to that defeat in her speech, reminding her party’s election hopefuls that despite recent gains in new tax and welfare powers, the Edinburgh parliament is “not as powerful as we wanted it to be”.