Hunt’s budget shows where his priorities lie - Lorna Slater

The new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, presented his Autumn Statement to a backdrop of economic calamity and chaos.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity. Picture: PA

Inflation is at its highest level in over 40 years, and, while he was speaking, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility warned that the UK has already entered recession.

The Chancellor began by promising compassion, but what he delivered was tens of billions of pounds worth of cuts and tax rises that will be disproportionately felt by ordinary households and families.

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With a long and difficult winter ahead, he offered little if anything for the millions of people who are already finding themselves forced to choose between feeding their family or heating their home.

Behind the economic pain there will be lots of individual stories and experiences, and millions of real people with lives that have already been made much harder and will be again by Hunt. But, because they are not millionaire supporters or wealthy donors to the Conservative Party, their stories and their voices will never be heard in Downing Street.

This is a time when all governments should be investing in our services and infrastructure and doing everything they can to protect their communities, not starving them of funding and leaving many of the most vulnerable people destitute.

The budget was also notable for what wasn’t in it and who will be unaffected.

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Many of the ultra-rich will be protected from any tax rises as they enjoy what is known as ‘non-dom’ status. This means that they are free to make millions abroad and then bring their profits back to the UK tax-free.

Ending ‘non-dom’ status could bring in billions of additional tax revenues to the country, but the Chancellor has refused to do so. As many have pointed out, he may have struggled to get this policy approved by a Prime Minister whose wife enjoys such a status.

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It’s too early to know exactly how all of this will impact Scotland and our public finances, but the early signs aren’t good.

The UK Government has already imposed real terms cuts to Scotland’s funding in recent years, while Tory-triggered inflation has further reduced the spending power of this year’s Scottish budget.

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Things don’t need to be like this, in Scotland we are taking a very different approach.

While the Chancellor was preparing his budget, Scotland took a big step in our efforts to tackle child poverty. Last Monday the Scottish Government expanded the Scottish Child Payment to include all eligible children and young people up to age 16.

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When the Scottish Greens joined the government the payment was worth £10 a week. Now, following positive and constructive work with our Scottish Government colleagues, it is worth £25 a week and is benefiting more people than ever.

That is the kind of ground-breaking progress we are taking with devolution. With greater powers, and with our hands no longer tied by failing Tory governments, we could do even more.

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Perhaps, more than anything else, this Chancellor, and this dreadful Budget, illustrate exactly why we need the powers of a normal independent nation.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity