In-depth: Starmer can do better than to follow the Tories’ lead

Increased support for families, support on energy prices, tax cuts, mortgage relief and a sovereign wealth fund.

Unfortunately, this is not remotely what is being discussed in Westminster.

This is the latest budget from the Republic of Ireland, a country that has defied all expectations and is now a wealthy and happy independent nation at the heart of both Europe and the United Nations.

Independence has unleashed Ireland’s potential, with this year’s spending package worth a total of €14 billion.

The latest budget includes one-off support payments for the cost-of-living, investment in infrastructure and an extension of child benefit.

In contrast, Scotland is stuck with Labour and Tory parties at Westminster debating over how big a cut to Scotland’s ambition should be made.

Labour are too timid to rise to the challenge

While independent Ireland drives ahead with an ambitious budget, Labour are wholeheartedly embracing the Tories’ toxic economics and welfare cuts.

The Labour Party should be ramping up the pressure on this incompetent Tory government by suggesting similar measures, not adopting their policies.

Rather than embrace a bold, ambitious and radical vision for these islands, Labour is now almost indistinguishable from the Tories on nearly every policy area.

They back austerity.

They back welfare cuts.

They back the Tories’ voter ID laws and anti-protest measures.

And they back the Tories’ stance on denying Scottish voters the right to decide their future.

Labour’s vague policy offering shows that other than more of the same, they will be able to deliver very little that is different from the Conservatives.

What is Ireland doing for families?

In contrast, Ireland’s budget delivers the kind of progressive and pragmatic policy that voters across the UK are crying out for.

The landmark budget proposes that all Irish households will receive energy bill credits over the winter in three instalments of €150 until April of next year, a €300 payment to those entitled to Ireland’s Fuel Allowance and an additional €200 to those receiving the Living Alone Allowance.

The lowest rate of Ireland’s Universal Social Charge, comparable to the UK’s National Insurance (NI), will go up by €2,840, meaning it will apply on earnings up to €25,760.

The minimum wage is set to rise to €12.70 and Ireland will also see a boost to its disabled and carers’ tax credits.

Much of the budget has been applauded for helping families with inflation and the cost-of-living, with the tax cuts and one-off payments being seen to provide security throughout the winter.

But the budget is also planning for the long term.

Proposals were also laid out for a sovereign wealth fund that could be worth as much as €100 billion by the middle of the 2030s. With initial funding of more than €8 billion, annual contributions of 0.8% of GDP will ensure the fund grows into a reliable source of revenue in the future.

Another fund of €14 billion will be created for infrastructure and Ireland’s transition towards net zero emissions.

These are the kind of bold measures needed to boost household incomes and reverse rising poverty – and governments around the world are already implementing them, showing what independent countries of Scotland’s size can achieve.

Families need real help

The SNP has repeatedly called for a major package ahead of the UK autumn budget to help families with the soaring cost of living in the UK, including the introduction of mortgage interest relief, a £400 energy bill rebate this winter, and action to reduce food prices in supermarkets.

Many of the measures laid out in the Irish budget this week have been suggested by the SNP, although it looks unlikely either of the main Westminster parties have any intention of implementing similar spending plans.

Despite the IMF forecasting the UK to have the highest inflation and the lowest growth of any G7 economy, the UK government insists on idly sitting on its hands.

But as the cost of living is set to spiral again throughout winter, and record numbers of people live in poverty in Scotland, the SNP is clear that far more needs to be done.

People in Scotland want to see real change and real help with the cost of living – not more Tory cuts imposed by a timid, Tory-lite Labour Party.

The problem with Westminster isn’t limited to the Tories

The hard truth is that the intransigence and incompetence that has seen a stagnant economy and falling living standards can’t be laid squarely at the Tories’ door.

Westminster is beyond reform and failing the diverse union of nations it is supposed to serve.

Chronic underfunding on infrastructure and public services has made the UK’s prospects never seem so bleak.

Only the SNP stands ready to be a voice for the change Scottish voters want to see. The bigger a Tory or Labour win at the next general election, the more both parties will be able to swing further right.

Labour needs to be held to account and the rotten Westminster system needs to have determined voices for change inside. The SNP will continue to push the Tories and Labour Party to back urgent help to tackle the cost of living crisis. With every day Westminster fails to act, it is showing why Scotland needs independence to help families and boost the economy.