Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement set to highlight the differences between SNP and Tory governments – Angus Robertson
With no hint of irony, the Chancellor will this week stand and deliver his autumn statement, which will outline his proposals to fix the economic crisis caused by 12 years of his own party’s rule.
Times are tough the world over but, when compared to other large economies, the UK distinguishes itself by being the only one that’s shrinking. It is also the only major economy not to have recovered the losses made during Covid; the economy is 0.4 per cent smaller than it was before the pandemic.
The Chancellor’s recent comments have not been encouraging. Furthermore, given the Tories’ record of unbridled mismanagement, waste, and propensity to use government money to line the pockets of wealthy supporters, there’s little hope for optimism.
Don’t forget, when Rishi Sunak was in post as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and then as Chancellor, over £4 billion was wasted buying totally unusable PPE. A hefty portion – hundreds of millions of pounds – went to a company owned by a Tory peer.
Incidentally, earlier this year, the High Court ruled the government acted unlawfully over the lack of disclosure about how it went about procuring PPE contracts. The National Audit Office revealed up to £6.3 billion were lost to “fraud and error” when administering Covid support schemes, most of it unrecoverable.
Not to be upstaged, the Truss administration pursued a more blunt approach to financial mismanagement by sending the economy into free-fall in a matter of hours. And, of course, we have the overarching calamity that is Brexit, causing continuous chaos across society.
The Chancellor claims he will protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Again, the Tories’ record contains zero evidence to suggest this is a priority for them. Do you really believe they are going to start now?
"Everyone will have to pay more tax,” the Chancellor says. Don’t let them pretend we’re all in the same boat: Sunak and Hunt are not going to have to choose between heating and eating. Those on low incomes should not have to bear the brunt of Tory mismanagement.
In Scotland, we are serious about helping the most vulnerable. The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the damage. Most recently, we expanded eligibility for the Scottish Child Payment support. Around 400,000 children are now eligible for a support payment previously only open to families with children under the age of six. We have also increased the weekly payment from £20 to £25.
Yet it is not as much as we want to be able to do. The UK Government must ensure that devolved governments have the appropriate resources. Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and his Welsh counterpart have written jointly to the UK Government to request the finances required to run our health services, as have John Swinney and the Welsh Finance Secretary.
I will pursue a constructive and mutually supportive relationship with my UK Government counterpart in the culture brief. We face enormous challenges in this sector and it will require a good working relationship.
But we need support, and that which has come to date has not gone far enough. If devolved governments are to be respected, we must be able to access the finances to govern effectively without being subject to the whims of a Tory Chancellor.