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The gid and the snide

Finance secretary Kate Forbes delivered the Scottish Budget yesterday, which sets out how the government intend on collecting taxes in Scotland and what they will then be spending those taxes on.

She didn’t hold back on the pressure Brexit has had on the economy… quoting the example of Northern Ireland, being the only UK country returning near pre-pandemic levels in terms of how their economy is getting on… and that this is “unsurprising” as a result of them lot “in effect” staying within the EU single trade market. The Northern Ireland Protocol (keeping the land border open between Ireland and Northern Ireland, respecting the 1998 peace deal) has kept them there.

The independence question was always going to be a talking point. It’s a bit like political chess at the moment… and it’s been played in a very tense environment.

Pro-independence parties are keeping their cards close to their chest. They’re dealing sly digs at the UK government without giving too much away about what the independence campaign will set out. I suspect they’re not wanting to slip up before the race has even started, this is surely their final shot for a long time. Instead, the SNP-Greens coalition delivered a budget with a huge focus on the climate crises and child poverty.

The child poverty debate is an interesting one… this was a key argument that the Yes Scotland campaign used in the lead up to 2014. They argued that the dire straits Westminster has left Scotland in have pushed thousands of children into poverty. They’ve continued this argument pointing to cuts to Universal Credit, saying if Scotland had the necessary economic levers to address this, thousands of families wouldn’t have been pushed into poverty.

And yet, opposition parties will say haud on a minute here… you’ve put plenty dosh into this budget to address child poverty, where was the funding for the last 14 years (the length of time the SNP have been in government)?

Who the responsibility falls on here isn’t that clear and it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in the referendum campaigns.

Nonetheless, Forbes said this was a budget of “choices,” as a result of being strangled by how much dosh they’re dealt by Westminster. The Scottish Conservatives were fuming at this, pointing out that the UK Budget that was announced the other week gave more dosh to Scotland than there has ever been before… Liz Smith called this out, basically saying the cheek on Forbes to not even acknowledge this.

In fairness, Scotland isny a wee laddie wi his hand out asking for pocket money. We pay our taxes… hardly like we’re getting a favour done for us.

This didn’t help the criticism towards the SNP that they were always gonnae moan at what was handed to them but. A wee acknowledgement to say that Scotland welcomes the increase in funding might’ve done her a cuttla favours there.

The independence ping pong didny end at that. Opposition parties wereny happy at money being put aside towards the independence referendum.

I kindae see both sides here.

The admin costs of the 2014 referendum (like running the poll and count, designated funds for each campaign) was in the millions. The Scottish Government’s consultation paper said it would be around £9.5 million and others say it was more. Put simply, opposition parties are saying there’s bigger fish to fry than spending money on that.

But also… what did they expect? The Scottish people have spoken… there is a serious appetite for another referendum. If that canny be made clear by an election outcome in Scotland, how on earth else would this be made clear? The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems said it was daft spending time, effort and money on another referendum – this was one of their main arguments against voting Green or SNP… but Scotland voted for these parties anyway? They canny say aw don’t vote for something, and if the public does, then go aye but trust us and no them… this is not what Scottish people want.

It wasny just about independence. After the impact of covid on industries such as education and the care sector, how much dosh being put towards this was always going to be a big talking point.

Forbes championed the commitment to recruiting 3,500 more teachers and classroom assistants & record investment in health and social care (to the tune of £18 billion).

You wonder, however, how much the hard-grafting, frontline workers actually see of this funding. These are the people that matter the most, after all. These are the folk that have been put through the toil of the pandemic. Opposition parties felt these people should be the ones rewarded for their efforts with significant pay rises. Labour, most notably, says the minimum wage for social care workers should be set at 15 quid an hour.

Yet, these workers were met with what Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, called a “slap in the face.” Commitment to larger recruitment meant that wages for teachers and nurses would not be going up in line with inflation. Also, the pay rise for social care workers is only going up to £10.50… way short of Labour’s demands. Anas Sawar, leader of Scottish Labour, called the 48 pence increase “insulting.”

The SNP will say aye but we had to make choices and we’re still putting a record amount of investment into that sector… again, you do wonder how much benefit the workers that deserve it the most will actually see. It’s great for the sector aye, but the workers will feel like it’s a bit ae a judas. I reckon if you polled what they’d rather, i.e extra funds to help the sector as a whole or an extra cuttla hunner quid on their pay packet… actually, I dinnae even have to explain that one. It’s a no brainer.

Council tax was another biggie… the SNP have frozen council tax rates every term since they came into power in 2007 but this won’t be the case this time around. Councils will have the freedom to set it at the rate they want.

Scottish Conservatives have jumped on this the day, after The Herald called this the “biggest rise in council tax for a generation.”

This is a wee bit wide in fairness… the tax rate wasny gonna be frozen forever and the reason it’ll be the biggest rise in ages is because of the freezes the SNP put in the first place.

Also, the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak (of the Conservatives), said that increased spending makes sense to ensure our economic recovery doesny U-turn. And because of this, there has to be some leeway for tax increases somewhere… in fact, Murdo Fraser (Conservative) was sympathetic towards this logic in Episode Three of the Untribal Podcast.

A lot of you will be thinking, how come we’re no taxing the rich then? How come the SNP can shout from the rooftops about how the Tories areny taxing the rich and then increase council tax here?

In short, whether you agree with the increases or not, Scotland has a limited amount of control over taxation… the SNP are saying we are utilising what we can do and this “choice” is necessary to pick up the slack on tackling things like child poverty and the climate crises… opposition will no doubt say aye well you canny have it both ways.

One hing that’s agreed upon by all parties is the urgent need to deal with climate change. Folk in Scotland shouldn’t be sweating through their shirts cos of the September heat. We’re no cut out for that patter & it’s a fine example of why we need to act right now.

Well… there’s been £1.4 billion invested in our railways, £53 million being put towards protecting and restoring nature in Scotland, £150 million for active travel (such as cycling infrastructure) and £304 million for bus services. There’s also £500 million for a ‘Just Transition Fund’ in the North East for green jobs in the future & 110,000 affordable, energy-efficient homes being built over the next decade.

I’m no an economist but it certainly sounds like the right kinda hing for the environment n aw that.

A “budget of choices” says Forbes… has she made the right ones?

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