The Chancellor’s budget yesterday can only be described as business as usual. More cuts to Scotland’s budget. More damage to our economy. And more communities pushed into unemployment and poverty.
Economic growth forecasts show the consequences of allowing far right Brexiteers to steer the Government by taking us out of the single market. It is the first time in years that growth is forecast to grow below 2% every year. This Government has no plan.
Pressure from the SNP has resulted in changes to the Universal Credit system and also forced the UK Government into a U-turn on charging VAT to Scottish Police and Fire Services. Despite now admitting it was wrong to tax our emergency services, the Tories will not refund the £140million robbed from us since 2013.
The Chancellor tried to spin his concession as a win for Scottish Tory MPs. However, the SNP asked for VAT to be scrapped 139 times. I even asked a PMQ on it. If the Chancellor’s U-turn is the result of Scottish Tory MPs as he says, it means the UK Government only charged VAT – starving our services of vital funds – out of sheer spite of the SNP. They’re message is clear: vote Tory and they will offer a small umbrella in the middle of a storm – or they will punish vital public services.
If this is true, what does this say about David Mundell as Scottish Secretary if he could not fight Scotland’s corner pre-2017?
Despite the Chancellor’s claim that Scotland will be £2billion better off, this is not discretionary or day-to-day spending. £1.1billion of this money is a Financial Transaction which has strings attached and has to be paid back to the UK Government. The Fraser of Allender Institute – a reputable organisation – has said the Scottish block grant will continue to decline in real terms. By 2019/20, the block grant will be around £500million lower than in 2017/18.
Scotland is being punished by a Tory Government we did not vote for. Forced austerity and an extreme Brexit, the UK Government does not care about what happens to our economy and ordinary people. We need an alternative that will not result in communities being torn apart and economic ruin.