THE Scottish Labour manifesto has been slated by the UK’s leading economic thinktank, which said there was “no sense” of how much it would cost or how it would be paid for.

The damning verdict from the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the party’s National Recovery Plan “significantly” exceeded available funding and implied “substantial” tax rises, despite Labour saying it wanted to avoid income tax rises.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has for weeks claimed there are spare “billions” available in Holyrood’s budget to help the country recover from the Covid pandemic.  

His first Holyrood manifesto in charge of the party set out plans to spend £4.5billion, which he said would come from an “unspent” and largely unallocated £4.2bn of UK Covid funding.

Mr Sarwar said around £3.2bn of his plan would be in day-to-day revenue spending and around £1.2bn in capital spending, for investing in infrastucture.

However the IFS estimated only £1.3 to £1.6bn of revenue spending was available and “relatively little” for capital. 

It said it was difficult to see how the Labour plan was feasible without a “further substantial" top-up to the Scottish Government’s block grant by the Treasury.

The IFS highlighted the manifesto’s “long list of giveaways”, including universal free school lunches, free bus travel for the under-25s, an end to non-residential social care charges, and more generous benefits for the over-75s, low0-income families, the disabled and carers.

“No doubt the beneficiaries of all these policies would welcome this largesse. The question - left unanswered - is how they would be paid for,” it said.

Meanwhile the party wanted to keep income tax steady for the next five years, or only raise it for those earning over £100,000 “if there is a need” - the IFS said the spending plans meant there would be indeed a need for that “and much more”.

As for mooted reforms to council tax, and possible land an online retailer taxes, the thinktank said: “Clearly Labour has more policy development work to do before we could know quite what they would mean in practice.”

The IFS said that, apart from numbers on short-term recovery measures, the lack of detail on long-term policies was “disappointing”, and the “enormous number of pledges” had a “significsant cost in both the shorter and longer term”.

It said the “stand-out proposal” was the £500m Jobs for Recovery scheme guaranteeing six months of employment in the public sector for all under-25s, disabled adults out of work, and all other adults uneployed for at least a year.

It said the challenge of creating thousands of well-paid public sector jobs was daunting, and the idea risked becoming “an expensive make-work scheme with limited long-term benefits”.

The IFS also said the lack of detail on medium to long-term health spending made it “impossible to assess how NHS funding wouldf fare under Scottish Labour, relative to other parties”.

There would also be a “very large bill” of up to £1bn a year for Labour’s plan for 50 hours of free childcare per week for every child all-yera round.

It said: “Scottish Labour is promising an enormous change to the childcare system, and the party should be much clearer in its manifesto what would be delivered by when so that voters can properly scrutinise it.”

Christine Farquharson, a senior research economist at the IFS who works on public spending, said: "The Scottish Labour manifesto is a somewhat strange beast - more a plan for the next 18 months and then for the next decade or more, rather than a 5-year parliamentary term.

"On a range of issues, it reflects the seeming consensus in Scottish politics: doubling the Scottish child payments, universal free school lunches for primary school aged children, and scrapping non-residential social care charges, to name a few.

"Where it stands out more is on the scale of short-term spending and longer-term ambitions.

"Other parties also set out short-term stimulus and recovery measures, but Labour’s dwarf them, and its one-off Jobs for Recovery scheme, guaranteeing 6 months of public sector employment for many of those out of work, is unprecedented in the UK.

"Also unprecedented in the UK is Labour’s plan to extend funded childcare entitlements to 50 hours a week, every week, for all children in the longer run - this would mean, near enough, that all formal childcare is paid for by the government.

"How this would all be paid for is not at all clear.

"The manifesto’s short-term plans exceed the Scottish Government’s unallocated funding for this year, and wouldn’t be deliverable without additional UK government funding.

"Longer-term plans would also require tax rises - not only affecting those earning over £100,000 - or a very substantial loosening of the purse strings by the UK government.”

Scottish Tory candidate Annie Wells, said: “It looks like Labour have dusted off the Jeremy Corbyn playbook.

“The IFS are scathing in their analysis. Labour’s plans are undeliverable in the short-term and long-term, they would require enormous hidden tax hikes.

“This is a damning verdict that spells out Labour has ‘no sense’ of how to pay for any of it – and they won’t even be honest about the tax bombshell they would force onto working families.

“The scale of their fantasy spending pledges only confirms that they are irrelevant now and they know it themselves, so they didn’t bother writing a credible and costed manifesto.”