The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement exposed the reality of the “Brexit con”, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon said dropping the Leave campaign’s £350 million a week NHS funding boost pledge and the increase in borrowing shows the “true cost” of the vote to exit the European Union.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, she said: “The Autumn Statement starkly set out the cost of Brexit to the UK economy and public finances, with economic growth and tax revenue revised downwards and borrowing and inflation sharply up.
“In responding, the UK Government had the opportunity to end its failed austerity policies, instead the Chancellor has continued with the cuts that are reducing the budgets for public services and cutting the income of families across Scotland.”
She welcomed the “small increase in capital investment”, but said by 2020 the capital budget would be around 8% lower in real terms than when the Tories took office.
She added: “The Tories don’t like to hear this because what we are hearing now is the reality of their recklessness on Brexit – £100 billion of additional borrowing, debt increasing by around £200 billion, debt to GDP ratio hitting 90%, lower growth and lower real wages, a real squeeze on living standards.
“Yesterday we started to see perhaps for the first time laid bare the true cost of Brexit. Rather than there being the promise of £350 million extra a week for the National Health Service, what we saw yesterday is that the additional borrowing, just the additional borrowing, caused by Brexit will amount to £225 million a week.
“That’s the Brexit con that so many people in the Conservative Party have presided over.
“That’s why I’m so determined that we continue to explore every option to protect Scotland’s interests and in particular to protect our place in the single market, because that’s how we minimise the costs of Brexit that are being imposed on us by the Conservative Party.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said the Chancellor had announced £800 million extra capital spending for Scotland, £74 million extra resource spending, £3.3 million extra for Scottish charities, a freeze in fuel duty, an increase in the personal allowance to help the lowest earners, an increase in research and development spending, and a new City Deal.
He said: “Why can’t the First Minister for once stop being so miserable and just welcome this good news?”
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said the Autumn Statement had contained a “great deal more good news for the wealthiest”, and called for the Scottish Budget to include “progressive” tax policies as well as to go further on issues such as the living wage, energy efficiency and topping up benefits.
He said: “Does the First Minister agree that the Scottish Budget must not only avoid reproducing the same unjust policies that are being pursued south of the border but must result in a cumulative benefit to Scotland that closes the inequality gap and leaves far fewer people in Scotland genuinely struggling?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Autumn Budget statement yesterday was a case of taking money away from the poorest to give it to the richest in our society. I think it was us seeing the Tories showing their true colours.”
She said the Scottish Budget would not pass on the tax cut to the 10% top income earners.