Wednesday’s Budget is set to be one of the most important in recent times. As we navigate through the pandemic, households and businesses across Scotland and the UK are grappling with a Tory-made cost of living crisis.
Families are under pressure after a decade of Tory austerity cuts, regressive tax hikes and stagnant wages, with the soaring cost of Brexit burdening many to breaking point.
What has become clear over the past week is that Rishi Sunak’s Budget is falling apart before it has even been delivered.
Beyond the Tory spin, the reality is that the announcements briefed ahead of the Budget fall well short of the radical action needed to reverse the Tory poverty crisis, fail to deliver the help needed to get families through a tough winter, and betray Scotland’s sectors.
Just last week, the UK government inexplicably broke its promise and pulled the plug on the carbon capture and storage facility at St Fergus, Aberdeenshire.
As the Chancellor prepares to stand at the despatch box and deliver the Budget, families and businesses will also be tuning in to see what steps the UK government takes to tackle the Tory made cost of living crisis.
Universal Credit withdrawal
The cuts to Universal Credit have reduced the incomes of 5.5million people by £1,040 a year. The Tory public sector pay freeze has slashed the wages of frontline workers by hundreds of pounds.
Scrapping the triple lock will see Scottish pensioners lose out on £486 next year, and regressive VAT and National Insurance hikes will force the majority of families to pay hundreds of pounds more in taxes next year.
The Budget this year also falls at the same time as Glasgow prepares to host the COP26 summit – with the eyes of the world on leaders to rise to the challenge of tackling the climate crisis.
Meaningful investment to tackle climate change must be at the heart of any government budget. However, just last week, the UK government inexplicably broke its promise and pulled the plug on the carbon capture and storage facility at St Fergus, Aberdeenshire.
The decision was a complete betrayal of the north east of Scotland by the Westminster Tory government – which had also pulled the plug on £1 billion of carbon capture investment for Peterhead in 2015.
Carbon Capture technology is essential to meeting Scotland’s emissions targets and efforts to reach net zero. The Tories must rethink their reckless decision.
And there is no getting away from the fact that the Tories’ decision to impose an extreme Brexit in the middle of a pandemic has compounded the pressure that families and firms were already under.
There is a grim picture being painted across Scotland and the UK as a direct result of the Tory government’s policies — firms are facing severe staffing shortages, food is rotting in the fields, prices are rising, and supermarket shelves are sitting empty.
These decisions are destroying any chance of a fair and strong recovery from the Covid pandemic.
That is why at this critical moment, the Chancellor must ensure that the Budget delivers a meaningful package of measures to address the serious challenges facing us.
If the UK government is serious about tackling inequality, poverty and climate change then it must:
- Introduce an emergency package to boost household incomes and reverse the damage caused by a decade of cuts
- Bring forward an energy payment of at least £300 for low income households to ensure that no family has to choose between heating and eating this winter
- Follow the EU’s lead and introduce a multi-billion pound Brexit Recovery Fund
- U-turn on the government’s CCS decision and match the Scottish Government’s £500 million investment in a just transition for the North East of Scotland.
Tackling poverty and climate change are the biggest priorities of our times.
This Budget will be judged on whether it delivers the change desperately needed – or simply continues decades of Westminster failure. Rishi Sunak must not squander this moment.
Stephen Flynn is the MP for Aberdeen South and the SNP spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.