I have a confession to make. I am somewhat cynical about how genuine the SNP are about tackling inequality in Scotland. There is no shortage of nationalists who say they care about inequality, but the reality is their party has an appalling record on the issue. Indeed, SNP policies on everything from cutting the grant for the poorest students to the slashing teacher numbers in Scotland have damaged the life chances of many Scots. My dad, a lifelong Labour voter, always enjoys calling them “Tartan Tories” for good reason.
Despite my cynicism, I felt the challenge posed by Labours progressive agenda would force the nationalists to propose a budget for Scotland that enabled our country to embark on a process of real change. Despite my cynicism, I have to admit I am disappointed.
Derek Mckay has introduced a series of tax measures that will mean that somebody earning the living wage will be just 38p per week better off than an equivalent person living in England under the Tories. Meanwhile a Scot earning £50,000 per year is £85 more better off than last year.
Tax cuts for some above average earners (£43,525 to £58,500) and a complete failure to tax the richest at a fair rate will be funded by cutting essential services run by councils. The SNP Group Leader in Edinburgh described this outrage as “positive”, but at least his finance spokesperson was honest enough to admit Edinburgh may be facing a 3% cut in funding (report, 15/12/17).
Again, City of Edinburgh Council will be forced to raise the most regressive tax (Council Tax) to help fill this gap because the nationalist government won’t do more than tinker with the most progressive tax (Income Tax). This is an utter disgrace.
Nonetheless, Edinburgh residents concerned about the impact of SNP cuts in their community will be relieved to hear that Nicola Sturgeon’s “international relations” budget is safe! The budget has increased by 25% in just two years to £17.3m and, among other things, funds her jaunts overseas. It’s shameful that at a time when essential services across our capital are being cut, the SNP elite can find extra money to promote themselves on the world stage. I’m sure some of the money is being spent well, but is it really necessary for funding to increase when essential services are being cut? How do the poorest benefit from Nicola Sturgeon promoting herself as “Queen of Scots” overseas?
But that’s not the only place where savings can be made. The bungled farm payment scheme, the Named Person fiasco and what Audit Scotland calls an “unacceptable” waste of public money by Police Scotland are symptomatic of a Government that is ineffective and inefficient. Rather than addressing these problems, the SNP elite is simply passing the buck to Councils.
Government is, after all, about priorities and the SNP have shown time and time again how much of a priority those that rely on Council services are.