The incoming First Minister, John Swinney, has made headlines for his unexpected praise of a former Conservative Chancellor known for implementing significant benefit cuts, stating that he was a strong “believer” in devolution.

Swinney pointed out that both George Osborne and his Liberal Democrat partner-in-power, Danny Alexander, demonstrated respect for Glasgow when they held sway at Westminster.

However, these statements earned Swinney criticism from Labour MSP, Jackie Baillie. She commented: “Hearing Swinney’s admiration for Osborne is unsurprising. It’s an established fact that between 2007 and 2011, Swinney was able to pass every budget with the backing of the Tories.

“At a fundamental level, there was hardly any difference between Swinney and the Conservative party.

While Swinney fondly recalls his past dealings with the Tories, we in Scottish Labour, are resolutely focused on displacing both the Conservative party and the SNP from power.”

During their joint position in the Treasury from 2010 to 2015, Osborne and Alexander were notorious for their austere cuts in welfare spending as they aimed to close the budget deficit. Their policies featured a cap on the amount families could receive in benefits, the infamous ‘bedroom tax’, and a notable reduction in the top line of income tax benefiting millionaires.

Swinney, who was just declared the SNP leader without contest, was a prominent detractor of the coalition government in those days.

A notable shift in tone was observed in Swinney’s recent address at a Resolution Foundation event held on the same day when Humza Yousaf stepped down. Reflecting on relationships with the UK Government throughout devolution, Swinney remarked that for the most part of the last quarter-century, Westminster had been “quite a benign presence” for the city of Glasgow.

In explanation of his comments, Swinney held that both Osborne and Alexander “were firm believers in the concept of devolution”, devolving power not only in Glasgow but across England. He concluded that the level of interaction and the operating culture at the time was “pretty good”.

However, Swinney took a sharp turn in his address, emphatically stating that the situation had “gone absolutely down the stank since Brexit, totally down the stank. And it is terrible just now”.

Interestingly, this does not echo Swinney’s views of Osborne and his austerity measures voiced back in 2015. He deemed the cuts to the Glasgow budget to be “completely and utterly unacceptable”. He then accused George Osborne and David Cameron of having an “ideological obsession with austerity”.

General secretary of the Alba Party, Chris McEleny, has issued a stark message for Swinney: “Unless he aspires to bear the nickname of ‘Silly John’ early on in his tenure as First Minister, Swinney would do well to remember that the only reason for a working relationship between the Scottish Government and UK Government was Alex Salmond’s face-off with Westminster when all eyes were on the Scottish independence referendum.”

McEleny then adds, “Osborne had no choice but to be seen working with Scotland due to his fears of what Salmond would do should they fail to co-operate.”