Government’s job is to improve lives not make them worse and Tories have failed miserably

In just two weeks time, the UK Government will publish their Budget for the year ahead. The SNP are calling on the Chancellor to use it to deliver a major and long-overdue boost to people’s incomes – after a decade of failed Tory austerity cuts that have left the whole country poorer and worse off.

The Tory Government’s record on living standards has been utterly miserable.

If the main job of any government is to improve people’s lives rather than make them harder, then the UK Government have failed abysmally.

Millions of people across Scotland and the UK have suffered a Tory pay cut, after years of austerity that has seen real wages falling, social security payments slashed and the cost of living rising – leaving many families struggling to get by. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that, on average, people’s real annual wages are now £800 lower than what they would have been a decade ago.

Back in 2008, the average wage was £24,100 but by 2017 it had fallen to £23,300 – leaving workers hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year worse off under the Tories.

But that’s only part of the story.

The UK Government have also cut social security payments by billions and slashed support for the disabled and those most in need. Last week, the Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was finally forced to admit that the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit would leave many families significantly worse off.

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) revealed that Universal Credit will make about 3.2million households £50 a week poorer. For many people, £50 a week is the difference between putting food on the table or going hungry, between being able to afford your rent and bills or getting into arrears and mounting debt. It’s no wonder that under the Tories poverty and inequality are soaring, while the use of food banks and emergency aid has become commonplace.

The Tories want to portray those hit by their cuts as work-shy – but the reality is almost three million children across the UK are now locked into poverty despite living in a working family. People are working long hours and multiple jobs but are still struggling under a system that is at breaking point.

The UK Government want us to believe that this is the best we can hope for – but the truth is there is a progressive SNP alternative.

Instead of piling cuts on cuts, the UK Government must use the Budget to introduce a real Living Wage for all workers – ensuring businesses pay their staff at the very least enough to live on.

Instead of ploughing ahead with Universal Credit whatever the damage, they must call an immediate halt and radically change the system – lifting the freeze on benefits, scrapping the two-child cap and rape clause, and allowing people to earn more before their payments are cut off under the work allowance.

Instead of sitting back and doing nothing in the face of rising living costs, the UK Government must do more to tackle rent and energy bills – putting money back into people’s pockets.

By abolishing the bedroom tax, introducing a meaningful cap on energy bills and reversing the cuts to housing benefit, the Tories would be making an important start to reversing the damage they’ve done.

And in the face of a devastating Tory hard Brexit that they know will inflict decades of damage to jobs and prosperity, the Chancellor should heed his own warnings and rule out any Brexit deal that takes us out of the single market.

In Scotland, the SNP Government have spent hundreds of millions every year mitigating the worst Tory austerity cuts – but the only way to truly end austerity is at its Westminster source.

While the Westminster parties only offer despair, the SNP will push for progressive policies that boost incomes and take Scotland forward.