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Treasury Spending: Grants to Devolved Institutions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 6:18 pm, 3rd July 2018

I welcome the contribution of the Scottish Government to the Aberdeen city region deal, but the hon. Lady must acknowledge that the deal would not have happened if the UK Government had not driven it ahead.

For goodness sake, give me strength. The argument about the financial transactions capital funding is ridiculous not only because, let’s face it, the Scottish people do not care what type of money they are getting as long as the Government spend it in a way that can benefit them and their communities, but because the Scottish Government have themselves used that type of funding for affordable housing, business investment and infrastructure projects. But then, consistency has never been the watchword of the Scottish National party.

Indeed, why allow the focus to fall on how the money is being spent? It is much easier to concoct the false narrative that Westminster is doing Scotland down and short- changing it—that the reason NHS Tayside and Grampian are in crisis, the reason Police Scotland is failing, the reason for the state of the management of education north of the border—when are we going to see that education Bill?—is that, somehow, the Tories are underfunding Scotland. That, say SNP Members, is why they are having to raise income tax; that is why they are forcing councils to raise council tax, making Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK and Aberdeenshire—forever the Scottish Government’s cash cow—the highest-taxed part of Scotland.

In fact, none of the problems facing Scotland in 2018 is due to underfunding from this Government at Westminster. They are all due to the incompetence of the Scottish Government, who could not organise—well, a tea party in a café. While moaning about not getting enough money, and while punishing the hard-working people of Scotland by raising their taxes, the Scottish Government actually underspent their budget by half a billion pounds last year. But that is not the worst of it. Not only are they not spending the money that they already have; not only have they ensured that Scottish workers keep less of their salaries than their English and Welsh colleagues; most disgracefully of all, they are spending money hand over fist on the biggest and most bloated Executive that Scotland has ever seen.

The new SNP Government at Holyrood is truly gargantuan. At present, 42% of SNP MSPs are on Nicola Sturgeon’s payroll. Talk about buying patronage! Please do not do any more of it, or the Government Whips might get some ideas. There are more Ministers than there ever were when Alex Salmond was First Minister, and he was not someone who ever sold himself short. The SNP Government have twice as many Cabinet Ministers drawing salaries as Alex Salmond had in his Government in 2007.

It is clear, at the end of the day, that it is the Conservatives who are delivering for Scotland. The SNP should spend less time complaining, less time giving jobs to the boys and girls, and more time governing. The conversation that we should be having now is about how we can best spend this dividend to improve Scotland’s services. So let us see an end to the grievance politics and the “it wisnae me” narrative. Let us work together and build a better Scotland, inside a stronger United Kingdom.