UK Tories are led by right-wing zealots, yet all Scottish Tories do is applaud – Angus Robertson MSP

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss have been forced to drop their plan to scrap the 45p top rate of tax (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss have been forced to drop their plan to scrap the 45p top rate of tax (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss have been forced to drop their plan to scrap the 45p top rate of tax (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
It is a policy U-turn with as much grace and subtlety as a pivoting oil tanker. In my many years in and around politics, I can’t remember a 180-degree handbrake turn so dramatic and publicly humiliating as Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s volte-face on the tax cut for the wealthiest in society.

The policy was immoral and idiotic – with the public, welfare charities, think tanks and the markets condemning it as such. Even the Bank of England had to stump up £65 billion of emergency intervention to prevent complete economic chaos caused by the Chancellor’s proposals.

In spite of this, the Tories insisted time and time again that their policy decisions were part of a wider radical change in direction; that they were happy to face the music; it was about principle, not short-term reaction.

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“Are you willing to be unpopular?” Liz Truss was asked last week. “Yes,” she said with blind conviction.

"Are you absolutely committed to abolishing the 45p tax rate?” Truss was asked by Laura Kuenssberg only on Sunday. “Yes,” the Prime Minister responded with certainty.

Then, in the early hours of Monday, the Chancellor casually dropped the statement into the social media announcing the reversal of the policy. They have bottled it. It reveals incompetence that would merit dismissal in any other job.

But do not let this fool you – all is not well. The tax cut for the rich was only one part of a kamikaze set of policy announcements. A huge amount of damage has been done. Mortgage rates are soaring beyond the affordability of nearly everyone.

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And there is more to come. The Chancellor has suggested he won’t raise benefits in line with inflation. The Institute for Fiscal Studies say this is a real-terms cut of £18 billion from the welfare budget. Unquestionably, this means millions have to choose to eat or heat. Many more won’t be able to afford to do either. People will die as a result.

Do the Tories care? Are they on your side? Well, while the pound plunged to a record low following his budget announcements, Kwarteng spent the evening having a Champagne-fuelled party with the bankers for whom he had just cut taxes and lifted caps on their bonuses.

As well as callous, there are very few others who have looked as incompetent as Truss and Kwarteng have this week. But the few who have are leading members of the Scottish Tory party.

Douglas Ross and the few allies he has left spent the last week in apoplectic rage at the Scottish Government for refusing to emulate Kwarteng’s reckless tax cuts. Ross said he was sure the UK Government was taking the right path to grow the economy.

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The Scottish Tories had ample opportunity to take a stand, as other Tory MPs did. As usual, they followed the herd, trotting mindlessly along behind the UK party hoping to be rewarded for craven loyalty.

The UK Tories are led by right-wing zealots who want to roll out pet ideological projects which will cost the public dearly. They have undermined the currency and pensions, ramped up public debt and mortgage rates, meanwhile they still intend to hit the poorest hardest.

What have the Scottish Tories done about it? They have applauded their London masters.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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