When the Chancellor took to the despatch box, he had a number of choices to make. Being in government is all about making choices.
Jeremy Hunt could have chosen to protect those on the lowest incomes and boost incomes by increasing public sector pay. He could have chosen to protect pensioners by stopping the plans to raise the state pension age. He could have chosen to cut energy bills for millions of households. These were the choices that the SNP wanted to see Jeremy Hunt make.
He did not choose to do any of these things, instead what Jeremy Hunt chose to do was deepen the cost-of-living crisis for households across the UK and Scotland. Hunt has plunged more households deeper into poverty as energy bills skyrocket again and he removes the £400 energy support scheme payments.
He has chosen to leave public sector workers fighting for scraps at the table by keeping their pay at the lowest level.
And he has chosen to refuse those planning for retirement their state pension for another year.
📢 The UK Tory government should have chosen to help families by cutting energy bills, raising public sector pay with inflation and introducing a Real Living Wage.
❌ Instead they chose to make people poorer – withdrawing vital support and imposing real-terms cuts to incomes. pic.twitter.com/mByjFjVII4
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 15, 2023
Be in no doubt, this was a Tory austerity budget on stilts with those on the lowest incomes expected to pay and clean up the mess created by this Tory government. Sky-high inflation, rocketing fuel bills and food prices increasing are all the fault of this government’s economic incompetence, but it is you who is expected to give up your hard-earned money and sort it out.
This austerity budget will also have profound effects on the Scottish Government’s budget, forcing it to make tough decisions for the year ahead about public services are funded.
This is a familiar tale under Westminster control for the people of Scotland and there is no hope of an improvement under a pro-Brexit Labour government.
Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster and most of the economic woes we are going through can be placed firmly at the door of Brexit. Low growth and low productivity are a direct result of the UK slamming the door on the European Union.
👇 After 13 years of Tory cuts, Brexit damage and economic mismanagement, @StewartHosieSNP lays bare the pathetic failure of this Tory budget.
⚡️ Cuts to vital energy support
💷 Failure to support fair pay deals
🧓 Increasing the pension age
🔋 Failure to make green investment pic.twitter.com/Xyd2HOo3Im
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 15, 2023
However, Labour would continue this downward spiral as they keep Scotland out of the European Union, a market seven times the size of the UK’s. No matter the disastrous economic consequences, Scotland will be kept outside the EU by Labour. As long as that continues, the UK will be in a tailspin of decline and Scotland will be dragged along for the ride.
As much as Jeremy Hunt has made a choice to deepen further the cost-of-living crisis. The people of Scotland can also make a choice. Scotland can choose to escape the endless economic chaos of Westminster control.
Scotland is being continually held back by Westminster control. Just this week, labour market statistics show how employment levels in Scotland are at their second highest levels ever and unemployment is at its joint lowest levels. This excellent performance is in spite of Westminster control, not because of it.
Scotland is showing what it can do already with one hand tied behind its back by Westminster. Scotland can flourish with a seat at the top table in the European Union and the only way we can do that is by making the choice to become an independent country.