Difference north and south of border is stark - Sue Webber

Looking forward to 2024, there’s no denying my party faces huge challenges, but since Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s, pictured, Autumn Statement and the SNP Scottish Government’s budget ten days ago, the difference between what’s happening north and south of the border is stark.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

With inflation down to 3.9 per cent, and the UK economy predicted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research to outperform the four major European countries in the next 15 years, Britain is going in the right direction, and I don’t detect any panic from the Treasury.

The Chancellor is examining tax cuts for his March 6 budget and Levelling Up minster Michael Gove is planning to encourage house-building and help people onto the housing ladder. Income tax cuts will mean extra cash for the Scottish Government on top of the £41 billion a year it already receives.

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The UK funding means the SNP receives over £8bn more each year than the same level of spending per person in England, and for every £100 spent per head in England on responsibilities devolved to Scotland, the SNP gets around £126.

Yet the SNP-Green administration is in meltdown. Finance secretary Shona Robison delivered a desperate budget because her boss Humza Yousaf threw money at public sector unions without any prospect of productivity improvements and then arbitrarily announced a Council Tax freeze.

But then he ramped up other taxes to increase welfare payments, and it all adds up to Scotland being an uncompetitive, economic drag on the rest of the UK which needs swingeing cuts to vital services and capital projects to balance the books.

You’d think the Nationalists have so much money they don’t know what to do with it, but the First Minister knew what he was doing when he bought off the unions and froze Council Tax; chasing cheap headlines and trying to make himself look like some sort of saint, throwing taxpayers’ money around when he knew it was unaffordable, thinking voters would just blame the Tories.

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It’s almost criminal mismanagement of public finances and amongst the organisations feeling the full impact of blind SNP panic is NHS Lothian. Forget all talk of fully-funded health services because crucial projects are now on hold for two years, like replacing the Eye Pavilion, condemned as unfit nearly a decade ago, or the Western General’s new cancer unit. The new Livingston St John’s national treatment centre and the Royal Infirmary’s sterilisation unit, without which operations at all Lothian hospitals are at risk, are also on ice.

Maybe SNP spin doctors now running the party imagine they can fool all the people all the time, believing surveys like the latest Edinburgh Partnership poll, which indicated 43 per cent of residents are very satisfied with health services.

But that wasn’t a poll of people waiting two years for a knee or hip replacement, unable to walk a few paces without agony, or of cancer patients desperate for treatment.

Nor was it the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland’s staff survey which revealed 80 per cent feel personnel levels are unsafe. Worse, NHS Lothian predicts the number of university qualified nurses will drop over the next two years and will be “inadequate for the needs of the population”. NHS Lothian’s words, not mine. But equally applicable to Humza Yousaf’s administration.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP