Autumn Statement Plea To End Austerity

23 November 2016, 08:27 | Updated: 23 November 2016, 08:31


Philip Hammond is being urged to end the UK Government's ''damaging austerity agenda'' when he makes his first Autumn Statement.

Holyrood Finance Secretary Derek Mackay made the plea to the Chancellor as he warned ''real terms cuts'' to the Scottish Government budget is already ''undermining our work to build a fairer country''.

Mr Hammond is under pressure to use the statement to deliver some help for the families known in Whitehall as the ''jams'' - people who are ''just about managing''.

But ahead of the fiscal set piece, Mr Mackay highlighted the ''stark contrast'' between the Conservative Government at Westminster and the SNP administration in Edinburgh.

The Finance Secretary said: ''The difference in approach towards how we grow our economy could not be more different between our two governments. In stark contrast to the silence and inaction of the UK Government, we have taken swift action in the wake of Brexit to support the economy by bringing forward an additional £100 million of capital investment.''

He added: ''This Government is already facing real terms cuts from the UK Government every year until at least 2019-20, further reducing funding for our public services and undermining our work to build a fairer country.

''Our discretionary budget will have been cut by £3.3 billion in real terms, or 10.6%, since 2010-11 and within this, our capital budget will have fallen by £600 million or 15.7% - this is unacceptable. I have written to the Chancellor and urged him to end the damaging austerity agenda when he sets out the Autumn Statement later today.''

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also called on Mr Hammond to call a halt to spending cuts in his statement, as well as provide more support for the struggling North Sea oil and gas sector.

Ms Dugdale said: ''When she first took office, Theresa May claimed to be a different kind of Tory. Today we will find out whether or not the Prime Minister really is on the side of working families after all.''

But she added: ''Given the fact that Theresa May has already U-turned on her promise to have workers appointed to company boards, and plans larger tax cuts for big business than even Donald Trump, the signs are not good for a different kind of Autumn Statement.''

The Labour MSP insisted: ''The only way to give everybody a fair chance in life is by investing in our public services, like schools and the NHS. The Tory mantra of cut, cut and cut again simply isn't working. Today the Government should admit that fact and bring the cuts to an end.

''It is also vital that the Government announces greater support for the North Sea oil and gas industry. Thousands of people have already lost their jobs because of the low oil price, so it's essential for Government support to help the industry through a difficult time.''

But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the Autumn Statement came at the same time as a ''massive change in the way Britain will work in the future''.

She stated: ''As of next year, the Scottish Parliament will be one of the most powerful and accountable devolved Parliaments in the world.

''The SNP will no longer just be making decisions on how to spend money, it will have to decide how to raise it from Scottish taxpayers too.

''And my message to the SNP is this: there is nothing fair about its plans to tax families in Scotland more than other parts of the UK, and it will only make us a less competitive place to do business.

''People will also want to see a positive reaction from the SNP today. Griping and sniping about the UK Government isn't enough. It is time to stop dithering in government and get on with governing.''