My biggest takeaway from this budget is the UK Government’s failure to address the cost of living crisis, leaving millions of households hundreds of pounds worse off.
Brexit, which Scotland didn’t vote for and had forced upon us, is also costing the UK and Scottish economies billions in long-term damage.
Further, the Chancellor failed to help families by cutting energy bills, raising public sector pay in line with inflation or introducing a real living wage. Instead, people will be made poorer when vital support is removed and by real-term cuts to wages.
It comes as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned living standards are expected to fall by 6% – the largest two-year fall since ONS records began in the 1950s. The OBR also warns Brexit will mean “the volume of UK imports and exports will both be 15 per cent lower in the long run than if we had remained in the EU… And we assume that this leads to a 4 per cent reduction in the potential productivity of the UK economy.”
In the Budget, the Chancellor confirmed a series of damaging measures, including:
- Scrapping the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme with immediate effect and leaving energy bills at sky-high levels – leaving households hundreds of pounds worse off.
- Imposing real-term cuts to public sector pay and failing to introduce a Real Living Wage – costing millions of workers hundreds of pounds.
- Failing to scrap the benefits cap or two-child cap costs many households hundreds of pounds.
- Raising NHS prescription charges to £9.65 – while Scotland continues to have free prescriptions under the SNP.
- Continuing to impose a hard Brexit – with the OBR forecasting a 4% hit to GDP and a cost of £ 100 billion a year in the lost output, according to Bloomberg Economics.
The Chancellor has also again utterly shamefully shafted Scotland by failing to announce any funding for the Acorn project and Scottish carbon capture at the Budget.
UK government ministers promised Scotland would get £ 1 billion of CCUS investment during the 2014 independence referendum, only to break that promise and withdraw the funding within weeks of the vote.
After a decade of broken promises from the Westminster government, it was believed Jeremy Hunt would announce the long-overdue funds finally, but yet again, Scotland was snubbed.
This budget, and a pro-cuts, pro-Brexit Labour Party failing to provide any real opposition, demonstrates how Scotland is continuing to pay the high price of being shackled to Westminster, and independence is the only way for Scotland to build a robust, fair and prosperous future.