Covid: Tories and SNP both lack the political will to build back better – Ian Murray MP

The UK Chancellor delivered his much-trailed “comprehensive” spending review yesterday. It was neither comprehensive, nor was it spending very much.

By Ian Murray
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 7:00 am
Both the Scottish and UK governments have turned their backs on the BiFab yard in Burntisland, says Ian Murray MP (Picture: PA)
Both the Scottish and UK governments have turned their backs on the BiFab yard in Burntisland, says Ian Murray MP (Picture: PA)

In the shadow of a global pandemic, what we needed was a relentless focus on jobs, growth and household incomes to get the economy back on its feet again.

The figures are beyond sobering. The economy will be over 11 per cent smaller after this crisis and it will take the best part of half a decade for it to fully recover.

This Spending Review was a moment for the Chancellor to take the responsible choices our country needs and reward those who have given so much to the cause, but he failed.

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Rishi Sunak warns 'economic emergency has only just begun' as he unveils spendin...

He said at the beginning of his speech that our economic emergency “has only just begun”. Try telling that to the three million “excluded” people who’ve been out of work since March and have received no government support.

Earlier this year the Chancellor stood on his doorstep and clapped for key workers. Yesterday he froze the pay of many of the workers who have kept us safe, fed, informed and healthy.

What the Chancellor fails to understand is that it doesn’t just stop at the pay packets of these key workers. It’s their spending power too. It takes a sledgehammer to consumer confidence when we need as many people as possible to shop locally and support businesses and jobs.

Many millions of people will now spend much less.

So in the face of these Tory failings, now is the time to prove the Prime Minister wrong and show that devolution does indeed work.

Many key workers are teachers, nurses, police officers, council workers, and others whose pay is the sole responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Through devolution, the Scottish government has the power to make a different choice. It must take that choice so that key workers get the pay increases we all owe them.

The Chancellor has also failed to match his words with actions. Build back greener is what Labour called for with a £30 billion accelerated capital spending programme over the next 18 months, focused on green initiatives, supporting 400,000 jobs and bringing us in line with many other countries. The government’s ambition is for half that number of new jobs and most are certainly not green.

This was brought into sharp focus locally this week when the SNP and Tory governments jointly turned their back on 450 green jobs at BiFab in Burntisland when they failed to support a huge £30m contract to build wind turbine jackets.

Those 450 jobs may be lost now, not because they cannot do the work, but because after winning the work, the Scottish government pulled the plug on the company.

This is not just a betrayal of those workers and their communities, but a betrayal of promises to transition Scotland to a greener future. What SNP ministers don’t say when they talk about more green jobs is that they are in China, Malaysia and Scandinavia and not in Scotland where they are desperately needed.

What the last week has shown is that to recover from this Covid crisis, protect jobs, and maintain livelihoods, you need the political will. Unfortunately, that seems sadly lacking by both our governments in Scotland.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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