Jim Murphy has come under fire from Labour colleagues over his plan to fund 1,000 new nurses in Scotland using the proceeds of a planned mansion tax which will mainly hit households in London and south east England.
The Scottish Labour leader was accused of planning to “expropriate” money from Londoners to support his effort to win power north of the border by a senior MP within his own party.
Veteran leftwinger Diane Abbott, who hopes to run for London mayor, said Mr Murphy had behaved in a “highly unscrupulous way”.
Labour will impose a levy on homes worth more than £2 million across the UK with the revenue earmarked for the NHS if Ed Miliband wins May’s General Election.
Mr Murphy said he would use Scotland’s share of the money, allocated under the Barnett formula, to pay for 1,000 nurses if Labour wins the Holyrood election next year.
But Ms Abbott said there were still “big problems” with the mansion tax policy that had to be addressed, including its impact on Londoners.
She said: “He just thinks he can buy Scottish votes with money expropriated from London.”
On BBC Radio 4’s The World At One she said: “It is effectively a tax on London, 80% of it will come from London, and there are problems.
“The super-wealthy plutocrats, who we all think should pay the mansion tax, probably through using their lawyers and accountants will evade it but you could be a teacher in Hackney, who bought a house in the 1980s for £50,000 and it’s worth £1 million and climbing.”
She added: “Thank goodness (shadow chancellor) Ed Balls is showing an open mind on this. Jim Murphy is jumping the gun in a highly unscrupulous way.”
But Mr Murphy mocked Ms Abbott after she mistakenly referred to him as John, saying “it’s hard to take this argument seriously when she didn’t even remember my name”.
He added: “When it comes to how we would spend money in Scotland on devolved areas, which of course the NHS is,
“I don’t have to consult Diane Abbott and I don’t have to clear things with Ed Miliband. That’s not the way it works in the Labour Party these days.”