Last week, the Scottish Government published their long-awaited Spending Review. It included their long-term spending plans and outlined their long-term goals.
It is a bleak picture. It is both a damning indictment on past government failures and a stark warning for what lies ahead.
Years of failed economic policies and low growth under SNP have drained money out of household budgets as well as public coffers. Uncosted spending commitments and income tax shortfalls have created a black hole in our finances, requiring the SNP to make drastic cuts of up to 8% to already fragile public services.
As always, the SNP had a string of excuses lined up, blaming everything from inflation to the pandemic to – you guessed it – the Tory UK government. While all of these excuses made the situation worse, it is clear that they were responsible for creating this mess.
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What we are seeing is the result of the income tax arrangements that the SNP fought for. Because of the fiscal framework they chose, Scotland is penalized when average wages rise more slowly than the UK average. This has been the case for many years.
These arrangements mean the SNP’s failure to boost wages has left us paying more in tax but raising less money.
In practice this means Scots are paying three times over for the SNP’s failure – firstly through lower wages, again in higher taxes, and finally in worse services.
These and other powers were devolved, which should have allowed us the opportunity to transform our economy. The SNP had a chance to take a tailored approach to Scotland’s unique challenges and opportunities, choose a better path than the Tory government, and design a fair tax system; to use the powers we have here in Scotland to grow our economy and deliver a fair deal for workers.
Things should have gotten better with these new powers – but in the SNP’s hands they’ve gotten worse, and the road ahead looks even more grim.
The biggest drop in disposable income in household history is coming to households, and public services will be cut to the bone.
We are still unaware of the truth of these severe cuts due to the lack of detail from the SNP government. This is another serious lapse in transparency by SNP, which makes it difficult for services to plan ahead for the cliff-edge facing them.
We do know that the overall impact of the cuts will be disastrous for Scotland.
The SNP are poised to slash local government funding by around 8% in real terms over the next four years, after robbing £6 billion from services over the last nine years. This will lead to more overflowing bins, more potholes and more cuts to essential local services. Council budgets have already been cut to the bone – all that is left is the essentials.
These severe cuts are not restricted to any one area. All areas, from justice and policing to rural affairs to universities, will see the same 8% real terms reduction over the next four year.
While Health and Social Care funding is set to increase, it will rise by just 0.6% a year in real terms for the next four years – nowhere near enough to keep pace with rising costs and demands for services.
Amazingly, given that this crisis is largely caused by economic mismanagement the budget for enterprise tourism and trade promotion has been the hardest hit. It fell by 16% in real terms over four years.
Yet despite all these devastating cuts, the SNP have found £20 million to set aside for another independence referendum. The anger that I and others have expressed about this is not just kneejerk unionism – it is genuine frustration at the SNP so shamelessly putting their agenda ahead of the needs of Scotland.
Our services have been declining for years, while the SNP pursues separatism at all costs. This spending review clarifies, in black and white: what their priority.
When their so-called “defining mission” to close the attainment gap proved difficult the SNP scrapped target and began squeezing school budgets.
As the pandemic causes havoc in our justice system, they are cutting funding.
While spiralling waiting lists and daily A&E chaos put lives at risk, they can’t afford to give our NHS the funding it needs to keep up.
They will always find the money, however, when it comes down to their constitutional obsession. They will always sign a blank cheque at taxpayers’ expense, no matter what else has to be cut.