Swinney calls for alternative to austerity

John Swinney
John Swinney

As George Osborne prepares to deliver the UK government’s Autumn Statement and Comprehensive Spending Review later today, deputy first minister John Swinney has renewed calls to the Chancellor to halt the programme of austerity and invest in infrastructure to help the economy.

Following a letter to the Chancellor last week, Mr Swinney has raised further concern that Scotland’s block grant will see a real terms reduction to compensate for apparent increases to other departments in the Autumn Statement adding that ministers at Holyrood would do “everything within our power to protect the most vulnerable”.

Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government has consistently demonstrated that the UK’s deficit and debt can be brought down without the need for huge public spending cuts as set out by the UK government. We have set out that the public finances can be returned to a sustainable footing alongside increasing public sector net investment.

“This reveals that the Chancellor is engaged in austerity of choice, not necessity.

“Despite this, the likelihood tomorrow is significant real terms cut to Scotland’s budget – cuts that the IFS claim will be the deepest in history with state spending being at its lowest level since the war. That is the wrong situation to create.

“What is worse is these cuts will hit the poorest the hardest. Low income working households with children are set to lose an average of £1,500 a year if the cut to tax credits goes ahead. A short-sighted move that will have damaging impact to families who already struggle to make ends meet while simultaneously removing work incentives and inhibiting future economic growth

“We will continue to do everything within our power to protect the most vulnerable from the UK government’s austerity measures, but we want to use our powers and resources to lift people out of poverty not just continually mitigate as best we can.

“In years to come, the additional responsibilities we will get through the Scotland Bill will enable this, and future Scottish Governments, to take a distinctive approach to the challenges we face, to design policies and programmes that align with our vision of a stronger, wealthier and fairer society.

“Our immediate task will be to set out our spending plans on December 16. We will be fair and progressive is our decisions. We only hope – and call on – the Chancellor to take a fair and progressive approach to the Spending Review and end his obsession with needless austerity.”

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