A lot of Opposition Members have talked about how austerity is not over and about how the Government’s rhetoric on that is empty. I would say something different: how can the Government claim that austerity is over, is coming to an end or whatever it is they are saying, when they do not even know what it is? After the Prime Minister told us that austerity is over, I asked the Chancellor what his Department’s definition of austerity is and how his Department measures austerity. I was keen to ensure that she was referring not just to halting her Government’s devastating cuts to public services, but to their huge social security cuts, which must be ended and reversed if austerity is really to be ended. The reply from the Treasury simply stated:
“The Chancellor will set out the government’s plans for the economy and public finances in detail at Budget.”
But he did not explain what austerity is. Far from clarifying what it is, he did very little to back up the Government’s empty words on ending it. So if they cannot even define what they mean by austerity, let alone make any significant steps towards ending it, that is just further proof that the Budget is empty rhetoric.
However, let me tell the Government what austerity means to my constituents in Midlothian. For young workers, austerity from this Government and the Scottish Government is going to mean further decimation of their services. Yes, the Government recently made small increases to the national living wage, but it is not a real living wage. Pay for 16 and 17-year-olds is being raised from £4.20 to £4.35, yet they are still doing the same job as people who are older than them and getting paid much less for it.
If paid employment is to provide a reliable route out of poverty for women in my constituency, action must be taken to address the continued gender inequalities in the labour market. Nothing from the Chancellor in his Budget was aimed specifically at improving the position of women in the economy. We had the WASPI campaigners in here because they were completely overlooked. I am fed up of listening to the Scottish Conservatives today, who have gone on and on about their representations to the Treasury and their standing up for Scotland, when they have done absolutely nothing about split payments, which I have raised time and again. It is an absolute disgrace.
I will not be supporting a Budget that does nothing to tackle the urgent issues of climate change and homelessness, has nothing for the WASPI women, youth services or the decimated women’s services, and does nothing to tackle period poverty.