If there’s one thing we know about the current Tory government it’s that they are as wedded to austerity as they are to a hard Brexit. No matter what has been happening in the economy successive Tory Chancellors have used their budgets each year not to back public services, but to slash them.
Since 2010, cuts have been heaped on top of cuts – and all this in spite of clear and growing evidence that austerity is harming the economy and our public services, as well as hitting living standards.
At the same time as the Tories have cut spending, of course, they have been happy to sell off public assets and hand out tax cuts to the very richest in our society.
This week we face another Tory budget and unfortunately, instead of reversing George Osborne’s failed austerity programme, it seems that Theresa May is determined to make it even tougher, with plans for at least a further £3.5 billion of cuts in the next few years.
Over the past six years, Tory spending decisions have already reduced Scotland’s budget by £2.3 billion – these extra cuts will only make things harder.
It’s not always easy but the choices we have made have helped households across the country – for example, more people earn the living wage and no-one has had to pay the Bedroom Tax.
We’ve also invested in our public services – in the coming year, we have ensured real terms protection for our frontline NHS and for police budgets and we have targeted additional investment in education. We are also working hard to back business with investment in enterprise and infrastructure.
And while the Tories plan to increase fees for higher education we have decided to keep education free of tuition fees – ensuring that access to education is based on ability to learn, not ability to pay.
Every year that the Tories decide to cut even deeper, the tougher it becomes to protect Scotland from their agenda.
So we have set out our priorities to the Chancellor. Top of the list is ending austerity, investing in public services and stopping the welfare cuts that are having such a devastating effect on many vulnerable people.
The hard fact is that Tory budget plans are bad for the economy and bad for the country. And with the very real prospect of Brexit inflicting further damage to our public finances and economy, now is the time for the Tories to change course.
So my challenge to the PM and her band of hard right Brexiteers is to do the right thing. On Wednesday, they should deliver a budget that puts a stop to spending cuts and instead invests in public services, jobs and opportunities for all.