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[1st Day]

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 4:20 pm, 21st June 2017

I find that quite extraordinary, because the real-terms cut to the Scottish budget over the last 10 years has been about £2.9 billion and it is simply because of Tory austerity. Yes, we support the Barnett formula, because it is applied on a needs basis. It is interesting that others have wanted to take it away. It is not the SNP who are a threat to the public finances in Scotland; it is those who want to attack the Barnett formula. Let me make it absolutely clear: in any back-door deal that is done with the DUP, if there is any increase in spending in Northern Ireland, which we would of course welcome, that must be reflected in the Barnett formula. Scotland must be protected by any deal that the Conservatives do.

SNP MPs will oppose the removal of the triple lock, so that our pensioners still see the pension that they worked for rise, and we will continue to support the WASPI women in their campaign to secure fairness. The Government must act with speed to address the WASPI issue. The Prime Minister and her Government must reflect on the circumstances that the WASPI women are in and put in place mitigation.

The most startling impact of austerity is the effect it has on children in working families. The incomes of the poorest third of working-age households will fall by 10% over the next four years, driving a further 1 million children across the United Kingdom into poverty. It was no wonder that in the last Parliament the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions wanted to redefine child poverty, because the numbers are quite simply eye-watering and shameful. By 2021, more than 5 million children across the UK—a number equivalent to the total population of Scotland—could be living in poverty, in one of the richest countries in the world. Above all, austerity erodes our public services, at a time when we need more than ever to ensure that our public services are well funded and delivering for people in our communities. In this Parliament, SNP MPs will champion our public services.

Over the past 10 years, the SNP Scottish Government have prioritised the health service and we will continue to do so. Our NHS, like health services across the world, faces real challenges. However, in Scotland, patient satisfaction is at record levels. Our hospital A&Es are the best performing in the United Kingdom. Many nurses in Scotland are better paid than in the rest of the UK. Our health service in Scotland will be £2 billion better off by the end of this Parliament. However, we want to go further. If the UK Government chose to increase health spending per head of population in England to the current Scottish level, which is 7% higher, that would mean more money for the NHS, not just in Scotland but across the UK. It would increase the health budget in England by £11 billion more than inflation by 2022, and it would deliver funds to support up to £1 billion of additional investment in Scotland’s NHS.

Ensuring that everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to the SNP Scottish Government’s drive to make this country fairer and more prosperous. Over the last parliamentary term, the SNP Government invested more than £1.7 billion in affordable housing. We are delivering more than 30,000 new affordable homes, and our target is 50,000 affordable homes by the end of this Parliament.

High-quality and well-funded public services, a growing economy with investment in business, and a fairer and more equal country are the alternatives to austerity. Given that they were denied their majority by the public, I had hoped that this Queen’s Speech might signal a Government who were more willing to listen and compromise, but I see scant evidence of that today.

In the last Parliament, the SNP was a real and effective opposition. It was the SNP that led the challenge to the proposed cuts in working tax credits which led to a coalition, here and elsewhere, that forced the Government to change course. It was my friend and colleague, my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss, who championed the campaign against the changes in tax credits for families with more than two children—what became known as the rape clause. We ask the Government again to revisit that issue.