Scottish Budget: John Swinney wants to spend your money for you - Sue Webber

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Stand-in SNP finance minister John Swinney has one remarkable talent, the ability to know what every aspirational person is Scotland wants to do with their own money.

Never mind what priorities they may have at home, he apparently knows what they all want is to give more of their earnings to him, because according to his budget statement yesterday he knows better than them how to spend it.

And if you think I’m making this up, with breathtaking arrogance he told the Scottish Parliament that, “people are asked to pay their fair share, in the knowledge that in so doing, they help to create the fairer society in which we all want to live.”

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So now everyone’s earnings over £43,663 will be taxed 2p in the pound more than their English colleagues. That’s every chartered teacher, band 7 health worker, police constable with ten years’ service and train driver. If you’re a public sector worker out on strike for better pay whatever you win might just be enough for Honest John to take it away.

Sue Webber is a Lothian Scottish Conservative MSP​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sue Webber is a Lothian Scottish Conservative MSP​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Sue Webber is a Lothian Scottish Conservative MSP​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Of course, if you are not a high earner, you are entitled to think it’s fair enough that people who earn a lot more should pay more in tax, which they already do, and it is true that most people are happy to give up hard-earned cash if they know it will make a difference.

But the problem is no amount of money the SNP takes from us ever makes any difference, in fact the more cash they get the worse services become.

The Scottish Government now has a bigger budget than at any time in its history, yet the educational attainment gap continues to yawn even wider, life expectancy in the poorest areas is far worse than most deprived districts in England, and the only reforms the SNP can ever devise involve it taking even more centralised control.

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While Mr Swinney was raiding modest earners, he also reaffirmed the plan to spend £1.7bn on a bureaucratic shake-up of care services, and pledged another £72m for those half-built ferries which are already millions over budget.

“We choose to stand firmly alongside the Scottish people, investing in our public services and doing everything possible to ensure that no one is left behind,” he boasted.

Except in an institutionally uncompetitive Scotland with a stuttering economy, everyone gets left behind. He spoke about investing in net zero, while he and the Greens abandon North Sea oil and gas expertise which is vital for the transition. And while £46m was set aside for colleges and universities, £77m will go on planting trees.

“We know this progressive model works,” he claimed without a shred of proof when evidence of failure is all around him. The UK Government is not to blame for putting Scotland’s health service in the high dependency unit, a care service which can’t care or an education service struggling to educate, all the SNP’s direct responsibility.

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At least the £20m referendum budget has gone, and he was right to say that “All of us need to know our public services will be there to meet our needs”. We do, but after 15 years of SNP incompetence and another three and a half years to go, there’s no guarantee they will.

Sue Webber is a Lothian Scottish Conservative MSP​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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