Derek MacKay MSP, the SNP Finance Secretary, may think his first budget is “historic”, but for those of us who care about fighting inequality in Scotland it is nothing more than a heart-breaking missed opportunity.
Last year the SNP Government published data showing the top 10% of Scots saw their incomes rise by 15% more than the bottom 40% combined. The data shows the SNP are making no impact on the proportion of people in absolute poverty (lacking basic human needs like food and shelter), whilst the proportion of people in poverty in working households increased.
Mr MacKay’s response to this is to boast about how “99% of taxpayers will not be paying more income tax”. What he really means is that he will not tax the richest to help reduce inequality in Scotland. His priority is a second divisive independence referendum, not helping the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh get on in life.
At the weekend in Perth we saw an alternative vision for Scotland. Kezia Dugdale outlined how she will ask Holyrood to increase Child Benefit by just £5 per week to move 18,000 children in Scotland out of poverty in just one year. This is the kind of policy that progressive governments enact.
So rather than dividing families, why does Derek MacKay MSP not have a wee chat with Kezia and get his calculator out again to see what he can do to help the poorest households feed and clothe their children? It’s time for him to be “Stronger for Scotland”.