Independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts

In recent weeks, it seems the Westminster government has been going out of its way to make the case for Scottish independence.

Downing Street has been engulfed in sleaze and scandal. Boris Johnson has been consumed by saving his own skin.

And the UK government has failed to lift a finger to address the cost-of-living crisis, which is now spiralling out of control.

Having spent weeks in hiding, presumably plotting his Tory leadership bid, the chancellor finally surfaced with a pitiful announcement that adds insult to injury — leaving the majority of families thousands of pounds worse off this year.

As UK taxes, inflation, interest rates and energy bills all go up, the Bank of England has warned families face the biggest fall in living standards since records began.

Yet instead of delivering the real help that families need, Rishi Sunak has burdened us with a £200 “buy now, pay later” loan. This Tory con trick won’t scratch the surface of the £693 increase in energy bills, let alone the mountain of additional costs families face on Mr Sunak’s watch.

The SNP has called for the chancellor to bring forward an emergency budget with a far-reaching package to protect household incomes — converting the loan into a more generous grant, reversing the £1,040 Tory cuts to universal credit, matching the SNP government’s Scottish child payment UK-wide, and boosting incomes with a real living wage.

The UK government has the powers needed to mitigate the pain, and it has a responsibility to act, but it is making a political choice to leave families in the lurch.

This Westminster crisis hasn’t come out of nowhere. It has been a decade in the making. A toxic mix of Tory cuts, regressive tax hikes and the soaring cost of Brexit has hammered the economy, decimated the social security safety net, squeezed incomes and caused rising poverty.

Under the Tories, the UK has had the slowest economic recovery of any country in northwestern Europe since the 2008 financial crash.

Brexit and austerity cuts have choked off growth, taking billions out of our economy, causing exports to collapse, reducing investment and burdening businesses with extra costs – in turn, stunting wage growth and raising prices.

All of this has compounded the energy crisis. It’s no coincidence that, under Boris Johnson’s government, the UK also has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in northwestern Europe — and the highest levels of in-work poverty this century.

Every part of society has suffered because of the harmful decisions imposed by Westminster.

Workers are poorer because Tory economic mismanagement means the UK faces two decades of wage stagnation, with real wages not expected to return to 2008 levels before 2026.

Young people have been burdened with debt from the Tory-Lib Dem decision to triple tuition fees to £9,250 a year and scrap the education maintenance allowance.

Older people are poorer because the Tories broke their manifesto pledge and scrapped the triple lock on pensions.

And those on the lowest incomes have been hammered by the benefits freeze, the bedroom tax, the two-child cap and other punitive policies that have caused food-bank use to sky-rocket.

In Scotland, against a tidal wave of Tory cuts, the SNP government has targeted resources to tackle poverty — introducing progressive new benefits including the Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant, mitigating the bedroom tax, protecting the EMA, abolishing tuition fees and introducing free personal care, prescriptions, dentistry and bus travel.

But for every step Scotland takes forward to tackle poverty, Westminster drags us back again.

While the SNP has doubled the Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week, the UK government has cut Universal Credit by the exact same amount. The SNP is putting money into people’s pockets — but the Tories are taking it away again.

The Tory cost-of-living crisis, and the damaging decisions of the past decade, demonstrate why Scotland needs to be an independent country — free from Westminster control.

Independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts and secure the powers needed to build a fair and prosperous society.

After recent weeks, many will conclude it cannot come soon enough.

This article originally appeared in The Times.