By Stirling Constituency MSP, Bruce Crawford
Last week, the Tory Chancellor detailed a Budget with an economic forecast for the UK that, to say the least was gloomy in its outlook. UK growth is set to slow down considerably – meaning that, in terms of growth, the UK is lagging behind much of Europe and the rest of the economically developed world.
One major issue that emerged from the Budget that must be must be addressed, head on, is the phantom £2 billion of additional funding to be given to Scotland. After 10 years of cuts to Scotland’s budget totalling £2.9 billion, I would have welcomed any real increase in funding for our public services. That said, the Tory con of such a large amount of cash may have scored a couple of headlines, but the reality is quite stark and different on the ground.
For a start, by far the majority of money allocated by the Chancellor is specifically for financial transactions that must be paid back to the Treasury. This means that this money cannot be used for the day-to-day running of Scotland’s vital public services (e.g. Health, education, fire and rescue).
So far from being a funding increase, the money allocated from Westminster to Scotland is actually to be reduced by £213 billion, in real terms, and this will create additional real strain for Scotland’s public services. We should of course always remember this is our own money being returned to us with a cut.
Universal Credit Rollout Failing
Also with his Budget speech came the Chancellor’s admission that the rollout of Universal Credit is failing those most in need.
Changes announced to the system will help but still failed to address the serious fundamental flaws that are hurting so many people. People applying for Universal Credit will still have to wait at least five weeks for a first payment but many will have to wait much longer. For those struggling to make ends meet with what little they have, this is a disgraceful position for the Tory Government to have put them in. The reality of it means that many individuals and families will have to choose between heating or eating this Christmas – a wholly unacceptable situation in a modern society.
Since Universal Credit was introduced into the Stirling Constituency this year, rent arrears have sky-rocketed, food bank referrals have spiked, and hundreds of crisis grants have been administered to people who are struggling. My colleagues and I continue to call for this system to be halted until it can be fixed, many vulnerable people in our area have suffered enough.
VAT Relief for Emergency Services But No Refund
I do however, welcome, the announcement from the Chancellor that Scotland’s Police and Fire services are to finally be lifted out of VAT liability. To date, this has cost our emergency services £140 million.
The formation of a single police force was an SNP Scottish Government policy that was also supported by the Tories in their 2011 Holyrood manifesto. Therefore, it is scandalous that it has taken until now for the Tory Government in Westminster to ensure there were sufficient changes made to VAT so as to protect Scotland’s emergency services.
Meanwhile, at Holyrood, I look forward to having a grown-up debate (I am always optimistic) on the future of Scotland’s finances with the publication of the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget on the 14th December. The Scottish Budget from an SNP Government will detail how we will move forward as a progressive country, supporting the best performing public services in the UK.
It will be a budget that will truly demonstrate two very different Parliaments with two very different stories to tell.
Constituents can contact me via phone (01786 471 899) or by email: email@example.com