Budget 2021: SNP warns 'no Boris veto on Scottish independence' in power grab claim
The SNP’s Westminster leader has warned that there is "no Boris veto on Scottish independence" and accused the Tories of attempting a power grab to take control of funding in devolved areas through today’s Budget.
Ian Blackford said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was ‘undermining’ devolution through infrastructure initiatives such as the “levelling-up fund”.
Meanwhile, Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes branded the budget as ‘better late than never’ but warned that it did not ‘match Scotland’s ambition’.
Ms Forbes said she welcomed the extension of the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit until September, but said that it would end at a tie when many people will face more hardship. She also pointed to pledges made by the Scottish Government which she said had not been matched by Sunak, such as a 100 per cent rates cut for businesses and a freeze on Council Taxes.
Blackford said: “The Chancellor is undermining our parliament and centralising resources and decision-making at Westminster. It is a naked power grab to bypass the devolved parliaments and take control of funding over devolved areas.
“Oh the irony, ‘take back control’. They’re taking back control from our Scottish Parliament.”
He added: "These attacks on devolution show what is fundamentally at stake because, as I said at the beginning of this speech, post-Brexit and post-pandemic, Scotland has a choice of two futures. At the heart of that choice is a simple question - who is best-placed to lead Scotland's recovery and build a better future?
"The Tories can try and deny democracy all they like, but that inalienable right to self-determination cannot and will not be subject to a Westminster veto. There is no Boris veto on Scottish independence.”
Speaking in Westminster after Sunak’s delivery of the Budget, Blackford said the Budget was “laying the ground for more Tory austerity”, pointing to the decision to extend a £20 a week rise in Universal Credit, rather than to make it a permanent rise. He told MPs that the Budget had "failed to deliver the meaningful change and investment needed to build a fairer society" and had imposed “damaging” Tory cuts including a public sector pay freeze, cliff edge cuts to Universal Credit, and tax rises for millions of workers.
He said: "The Tories are threatening Scotland's recovery with a return to austerity cuts, an extreme Brexit, and a Budget that completely failed to deliver the meaningful change and investment needed to build a fairer society."The UK has suffered the worst economic slump of any major economy, UK unemployment is rising, and millions of families have seen their incomes slashed - but the Chancellor has added to this misery by imposing a public sector pay freeze, cliff edge cuts to Universal Credit, and tax rises for millions of workers.He added: "A decade of Westminster cuts have pushed 4.2 million children into poverty but there were no measures to reverse the growing Tory child poverty crisis, no plan to raise statutory sick pay or introduce a Real Living Wage.
Forbes said: “While I welcome some of the announcements today, it is clear the Chancellor has not matched Scotland’s ambition for economic recovery and supporting households.“The extension of the furlough scheme and self-employed support will be a relief to many, and is something that the Scottish Government has repeatedly called for. However, it is extremely disappointing that the Chancellor has failed to reverse the cuts to Scotland’s capital budget and has refused to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent.
“The UK Government’s support for businesses and households is significantly less generous than what we have committed to here in Scotland.”She added: “While there is some additional funding for Scotland, it was clear from the Chancellor’s statement that the storm clouds of austerity are on the horizon once again; with the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] highlighting that departmental spending is being cut by £15 billion – a move that would be disastrous for our economic recovery, undermine our public services, and impact on the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Consumer groups north of the border also expressed disappointment that the Universal Credit increase was not made permanent.
Nina Ballantyne, spokeswoman for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: "Universal Credit wasn’t enough to live on before the pandemic, and if the uplift ends, whether now or in six months, it will be worth less in real terms than it was when it was first introduced in 2013. The cost of extending the uplift is a drop in the ocean compared to the pressure that will be placed on other public services when it’s cut.”
The hospitality industry will benefit from a VAT cut to five per cent until September, followed by a reduction in rates to 12.5 per cent until April 2022, when it will return to the usual 20 per cent rate.
The Scottish hospitality industry said it welcomed the extension, but said it was disappointed that the cut would not be extended into net year.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said: “The industry had hoped that the five per cent rate would have been extended well into 2022 to allow businesses more time to recover and have the breathing space needed to meet the substantial costs of loan repayments and other significant costs which are looming on the horizon.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The UK Government's 'fiscal firepower' will continue to protect jobs and livelihoods right across the United Kingdom as we get through the pandemic.“Today’s budget demonstrates the UK Government delivering for people in Scotland. We are living through challenging times and the extension of the UK Government's support schemes - including furlough, self-employed and business support, the Universal Credit uplift, and the hospitality VAT cut - will continue to support jobs and businesses in Scotland. We are giving vital certainty through the months ahead."