Ahead of the UK spending review last week, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to stress the importance of delivering a fiscal stimulus package that will support businesses and households while regenerating the economy. I reiterated those points on the morning of the spending review.
Sadly, there was instead a cut to the Scottish Government’s capital and financial transaction budgets and a freezing of public-sector pay rises for many hard-working front-line staff. The chancellor ignored the proposal for a £9.21 per hour national minimum wage, and he failed to replace European Union funding in full, or to even to offer a proper plan on how to do so.
Many countries, including France, Germany and New Zealand, have introduced substantial economic stimulus packages in response to Covid. The cabinet secretary has just described the UK Government’s response. Has the UK Government articulated an argument to show that its response will help us, or will it do otherwise?
Stewart Stevenson mentioned other countries that have introduced much more generous economic stimuli than the one that the chancellor provided last week. As I said, ahead of the spending review, I urged the chancellor to follow the lead of those countries and to prioritise public services and economic recovery through a fresh stimulus. We suggested that the stimulus should be at least 5 per cent of gross domestic product, which would equate to £98 billion.
That investment is even more necessary, given the uncertainty that has been caused by the UK Government’s reckless approach to EU exit. Headlines today continue to prove that point. As we know, the UK spending review fell far short of what we proposed, which will only make it harder for us to deliver the fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland that we all want.