The Chancellor must use the Autumn Statement to end austerity

On Wednesday the Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement – the first UK budget statement since the EU referendum.

So far the Tory Treasury has taken no action whatsoever to ease the uncertainty felt in the wake of Brexit. It is now more vital than ever that the Chancellor ends austerity and supports economic growth.
Here are the SNP Scottish Government’s five key demands for the Chancellor.
1. End austerity
By 2019-20, the budget available to the Scottish Government will have been cut by £3.3 billion in real terms since 2010-11.
The think tank IPPR has calculated that Scotland could face further budget cuts of up to £1.3 billion a year if Philip Hammond chooses to tackle the Brexit hole in public finances through spending reductions.
This is unacceptable. The Chancellor should end austerity to invest in our economy, support businesses and protect public services.
2.  Commit to retaining single market membership
While the UK government has a mandate to take England and Wales out of the EU, they have no mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market.
The EU’s single market is made up of 500 million people – eight times the UK market – and supports an estimated 300,000 jobs here in Scotland.
3.  Support the North Sea oil and gas sector
The UK government must take action to reduce costs and increase production in fields nearing decommissioning. Scottish Government analysis shows that with greater support, the remaining value of these fields could increase by over 50 per cent, or half a billion pounds.

The UK government should reaffirm its commitment to loan guarantees for the sector, to ensure the industry can secure the capital investment it requires. This could unlock fields with the potential for around two billion barrels of oil and gas.

The UK government should also introduce measures to support exploration and ensure the 20 billion barrel potential of the North Sea is realised.
4.  Stop harmful welfare cuts
The UK government is expected to cut £1 billion annually from benefits in Scotland by 2020 – it must commit to no further attacks on the incomes of low income families.
The Chancellor must also reverse the further cut to the benefit cap made earlier this month, which is estimated to affect up to 20,000 children in Scotland. And he should reconsider the ongoing benefit freeze and cuts to Universal Credit too.
5.  Restore VAT exemption for our emergency services
Scotland’s police and fire services are currently the only emergency services in the UK to be charged VAT by the Treasury. Ending this unfair charge would allow the Scottish Government to invest £30 million annually in frontline services.