With Westminster, Scotland faces another daunting decade of austerity

Scotland faces another decade of devastating austerity cuts under damaging Tory and Labour Party fiscal rules – as the UK Chancellor indicates further cuts to vital public services and capital investment.

Many of the Spring Budget decisions will be driven by the Tories’ scramble to cut taxes, in a desperate move to shore up support before the general election.

But it will be working people, vulnerable families and vital public services that pay the price of the Tories’ electioneering.

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is no better, dumping its entire policy prospectus in a shift to the right; a cynical move to win over the wealthiest and most right wing voters, and a shameful dereliction of duty in the most difficult economic circumstances.

Ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday, the SNP has challenged the Chancellor to ditch his reckless plans for even more cuts before it’s too late.

This race to slash services to the bone comes after Westminster cut Scotland’s budget by more than £2billion in real terms for 2023/24, including a £500million cut to public service budgets and a £1.6billion cut to capital investment.

And to make it worse, Westminster’s spending plans for England continue to cast a shadow over Scotland’s public spending.

Thanks to the consequential funding, these damning decisions have a brutal impact on the Scottish Government’s ability to fund vital public services like our precious NHS.

Former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane recently warned the UK government’s fiscal rules are “stunting growth.”

He told Laura Kuenssberg “what I’d love to hear is the fiscal rules might be tweaked – they are stunting growth… the debt rule in particular is overly constraining our capacity to invest as a nation and therefore grow tomorrow”.

His position was backed by businessman Sir Rocco Forte, who said “I agree completely – this five year rule is nonsense…it should be about taking a long term view over growing the economy”, and Vicky Spratt of the I newspaper, who said “the debt rule is harming us now – I would like to hear about spending”.

The Tories seem set to ignore these warnings and press ahead with their careless budget plans.

The SNP has instead urged the Chancellor to deliver more money for the NHS, public services and capital investment, calling on Jeremy Hunt to:

  • Boost NHS spending by £15billion – using the available headroom to improve healthcare after the UK government imposed real terms cuts this year.
  • Turbocharge investment in green energy – by investing at least £28billion a year to compete in the global green energy gold rush and secure sustained economic growth
  • Help families with the cost of living – by scrapping energy bill standing charges and using a £12billion wealth tax to fund a £400 annual energy bill discount for households, reintroducing mortgage interest tax relief, capping supermarket food prices, and matching the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide.
  • Boost public finances – by scrapping non-dom tax status, increasing capital gains tax, taxing share buy backs, increasing taxes for those earning more than £100,000, and by investing in renewables and rejoining the EU single market to deliver economic growth.

To avoid another damaging decade of Westminster austerity cuts, the Tories and the Labour Party must scrap their economically illiterate fiscal rules – and prioritise investment in public services and economic growth over devastating cuts.

Westminster has already slashed Scotland’s budget and imposed real terms cuts to the NHS across the UK. The Chancellor must ditch his plans for even more cuts before it’s too late.

The only way to deliver a stronger NHS ,and sustained economic growth, is by investing in services and boosting capital investment. Yet, instead, Westminster has been choking growth  and putting public services under threat. The UK is now in a doom spiral of ever deeper cuts, cutting off growth and leading to even more cuts. Enough is enough.

Instead of taking the axe to public services, the SNP is calling on the Chancellor to boost NHS spending by at least £15billion a year – and help working families by taxing the super rich to fund a £400 annual energy bill discount for households.

And instead of cutting off capital investment, the SNP is calling on the Chancellor to go for growth by investing at least £28billion a year in green energy and rejoining the EU single market. That is the only credible path to sustained growth.

The next general election will be a clear choice between the pro-growth SNP and the pro-cuts Tories and Labour Party. Unlike Sunak and Starmer, the SNP will stand up for Scotland’s values, demand NHS investment, help with the cost of living, and the choice of a better future with independence.