The Scottish taxpayer will fund the modest increases in spending outlined by Derek Mackay in today’s Budget, but he notably chose not to acknowledge the funding we continue to receive from the UK Exchequer, without which our public services funding would be drastically slashed.
The SNP Government had a tricky balancing act with its budget and as ever there are winners and losers. A little less tax for the lowest paid, a little more for middle and high earners, local authority budgets cut in real terms and some public-sector workers will get a small pay rise (along with a tax hike for many).
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the scale of the figures involved. The income tax rises announced by the Scottish Government are set to raise £164 million, a contribution from the Scottish taxpayer they seem very grateful for... but Scotland’s notional deficit - the gap between what we raise and what we spend - is more than £13 billion, nearly 80 times as much. It's taxes collected across the UK that helps plugs this gap, a fact the nationalists conveniently forget.
Without our membership of the UK, and the Barnett Formula, the cuts to public services and tax increases would be on a far grander scale.
No one said Derek Mackay’s job would be easy. He promised a budget for economic growth but with the forecasts pegging it at under one per cent for each of the next four years, we don’t have a lot of it to come. And we they can’t just blame Brexit, as it’s significantly less than the rest of the UK; the UK economy is set to grow at double the rate of Scotland’s alone next year.
The blame for this must lie at the door of the Scottish Government; ten years of neglecting the day job in favour of campaigning for independence is having a lasting impact on our economy and stagnating growth for the foreseeable future.
This Budget reminds us that running an economy, levying fair taxes and managing competing interests is a tough job which calls for rational thinking, evidence-based decisions and a splash of clever politics to help sell it to the public.
The people of Scotland will not be fooled by today’s rhetoric. We know the SNP Government’s record is that of a decade of decline, and we know that we still benefit immensely economically by being part of the UK.
Chief Executive of Scotland in Union