The UK Government did not engage with the Scottish Government on the most recent changes in fiscal policy for our budget. We face the prospect of further reductions as it tries to manage the damage caused by the Conservative mini-budget some weeks ago. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has warned about “decisions of eye-watering difficulty”.
I have just completed a call with the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who has assured me that there will be dialogue with the Scottish Government in advance of the UK Government’s autumn statement on 17 November. I welcome that assurance. With inflation eroding the real-terms value of our budget by £1.7 billion since it was introduced in December, the UK Government needs to use the autumn statement to set out how it will protect public services, households and businesses from inflation and the cost crisis, and rule out a return to austerity.
The U-turns that have been made by the UK Government have caused great uncertainty for many Scots, with mortgage products being pulled and the pound crashing. That has only been made worse by the UK Government’s unwelcome delay to its budgetary plans, which the chancellor announced this week. People need certainty and stability. Does the Deputy First Minister agree with me that the only way in which we can provide certainty for Scotland’s economic future is through the full powers that independence would bring?
I agree with Mr Beattie on the central premise of his question. One of the key points that were made in the 2014 referendum campaign by those who argued for the union was that it offered fiscal certainty. Any independent observer looking at the events of the past few years—not just the past few weeks—would understand the fiscal and economic damage that has been done as a consequence of our continued participation in the United Kingdom. That includes the economic effects of Brexit, which everyone knows is having a negative effect on economic performance and migration, and the mind-numbingly damaging decisions that were taken in the mini-budget, which will create economic hardship for people in this country, who will lose homes and jobs as a consequence of the unnecessary increases in interest rates.
Mr Beattie makes a strong argument. I am delighted to associate myself with it and to ensure that it will be put to the people of our country.