George Osborne’s budget will leave many people in the UK better off. As someone who lives in a household with well over double the national average income, I am one of them. The problem is that the £250 gain my wife and I will receive has been taken from the very poorest people in our society. Whilst our gain will have a negligible impact on our household finances, every pound of its loss will be felt acutely by someone in the UK. Perhaps Less fruit on the table or no new shoes for school.
There has been commentary from nationalists about the impact of the budget on Scottish families specifically. Some have went as far to say “I told you so” and claim that this hurt could have been avoided if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014 to the SNP’s low tax and high public spending nirvana.
This position is rather disingenuous when one remembers that the SNP then and now go to great lengths to avoid saying how they would deal with Scotland deficit – it is almost double that of the rest of the UK. Indeed, no independent analysis has shown that Scotland would be better off under either independence or Full Fiscal Autonomy.
The challenge for Scotland’s SNP government must be to explain how it will use Holyrood’s existing and new tax and welfare powers to mitigate the impact of Mr Osborne’s budget. The challenge should not simply be to reverse welfare cuts, but to put in place a package of measures to help unemployed Scots back into work or education. Only by doing this can we tackle inequality and low productivity in Scotland.