Tory budget obsession with public debt will cause deep harm as a result of austerity

Patrick Harvie MSP, Finance and Economy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (22 Nov) criticised the UK Chancellor for a budget that continues shameful treatment of women and families.

Patrick said:

“The Chancellor expects applause for graciously agreeing to treat Scotland’s emergency services no worse than elsewhere in the UK, while pressing ahead with the most reckless and destructive economic course of action any UK Government has ever undertaken. 

“In his claim that Brexit is a great opportunity for the economy, the first words from the Chancellor’s mouth were lies. Nobody believes that he is sincere in this claim, and we know very well that our economy, and our society, are already being damaged by the UK Government’s ‘hard Brexit’ obsession. The OBR’s downgrading of economic prospects cannot be seen as separate from that context. 

“He has thrown money at his allies in the DUP, and is now committing billions more to preparing for Brexit, while cutting our public services. 70% to 85% of cuts to public spending on benefits, taxation, pay and pensions between 2010 and 2015 come from women's incomes - it is shameful that any government should target women and their families in this way."

On the continuing austerity agenda, Patrick said:

“He’s giving even more tax cuts to high earners while failing to increase public sector pay, and his fake living wage is still set to be nearly £1 an hour below the level of the real thing. The poorest families have lost the most thanks to nearly a decade of austerity - analysis by the Women's Budget Group shows that low income black and Asian women are paying the highest price for austerity.  Carers and households where one or more family members has a disability have also been unfairly affected by cuts to support.

“Continued obsession with reducing the public debt, while productivity remains stubbornly low and private debt is a far bigger problem, will cause even deeper harm as a result of austerity. The cruel irony is that while the Chancellor gloats that government borrowing is set to fall over the coming years, this is at the expense of huge numbers of people who are struggling to make ends meet: for every £2 billion of public sector deficit reduction, the annual rate at which households have taken on new debt has increased by £1 billion.”

On the environment, Patrick added:

“Yet another round of tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry will undermine any effort the UK Government intends to make on cutting plastic pollution, while support for self-driving cars is likely to benefit the wealthiest people while public transport fares keep rising.”

And on the impact on the Scottish budget, Patrick concluded:

“The Chancellor claims there will be more capital spending for Scotland, but the impact on Scottish public services will only emerge over the coming weeks, as the Fiscal Commission produces its forecasts, and the SNP will have to decide whether to set fairer tax rates to raise the revenue that’s needed.”