“Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2019-20”

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd September 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the level of deficit recorded by the latest “Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland” figures. (S5O-04553)

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

As I have already said, 40 per cent of spend, 70 per cent of revenue and all the major fiscal levers are reserved, so if Rachael Hamilton has any concerns about the GERS figures, I suggest that she takes them up with her counterparts in the United Kingdom Government.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

The cabinet secretary’s argument for European Union membership is deeply flawed and her party misleads the public. To achieve an acceptable fiscal deficit of 3 per cent or below, the Scottish Government will have to raise taxes or cut public spending. How many years of financial hardship is the Scottish National Party willing to inflict on the poorest people in Scotland in order to achieve independence and take us straight back into the hands of Brussels?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

The irony in that question is that Rachael Hamilton is part of a party that has inflicted 10 years of cuts to public spending under the UK Government. The choice that we face now is whether Scotland is able to make its own choices and decisions, and use all the levers that any normal country has, to invest in economic recovery and to chart a course out of this pandemic.

Had we been an independent member of the EU, not only would we have been able to borrow—as every normal country has done—in order to invest in the pandemic response, we would have had access to the EU’s £750 billion recovery fund, to which we did not get access because the UK Government is currently taking Scotland out of the EU against its will.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The cabinet secretary is aware that the SNP growth commission said that the deficit should be reduced to 3 per cent. Given that she was a member of that commission, I take it that she still agrees with that figure, which means cuts in expenditure of more than £1,800 per person. What public services will the cabinet secretary therefore have to cut?

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

As Jackie Baillie was obviously an avid reader of the growth commission’s report, she also knows that it charted a course on how to increase our public spending while managing our public finance more sustainably.

I understand that politicians across the unionist parties will consider GERS and make certain arguments. However, those arguments celebrate mediocrity and short-term thinking, because we can manage our public finances in different ways. Every country around the world is developing a deficit as a result of the unusual circumstances of this pandemic and not one of them is rethinking its independence. Instead, those countries use the levers at their disposal to manage it, as Scotland would have to do in the event of its independence.