LABOUR MPs have been criticised by a senior Scottish party figure for their failure to vote against the cut in the top rate of tax after the Budget.

The party's Holyrood finance spokesman and former leadership challenger Ken Macintosh said they could have learned "a little bit more political savvy, a bit of better news management and a bit of political spin" .

Mr Macintosh's comments follow the publication of leaked emails that showed Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls' political adviser Alex Belardinelli admitting to a "screw-up" that led to Labour failing to back an SNP/Plaid Cymru vote in the Commons against the UK Government's cut in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p.

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An adviser to Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran told Labour's Scottish press office to "hold off releasing in Scotland just yet, in the hope that it is ignored".

Mr Macintosh said: " I suspect there are those on the Tory side that think with a little bit more political savvy, a bit of better news management and a bit of political spin, this could all have been handled better, which is something perhaps our own side could have learned."

Finance Secretary John Swinney hailed "the absolutely marvellous email trail of transparency that the Labour party presides over". He said: "It's the first time that Labour has been shy putting out press lines to the media. It's better than any freedom of information request I've had to authorise, I can tell you, and it didn't even cost us any money."

Mr Swinney criticised the top-rate tax cut, the rise in income tax for pensioners, increases in VAT, national insurance and fuel duty, as well as cuts to tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit. However, he said he was "a fair man" and welcomed tax relief on decommissioning oil platforms, more generous oil field allowances, enhanced capital for three Scottish enterprise areas and tax breaks for the computer games industry.