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UK Budget marks return to austerity, says SNP Westminster leader Blackford

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·2-min read

The Budget announced by the Chancellor is a “return to austerity” and fails to tackle inequality, Ian Blackford has claimed.

Rishi Sunak delivered the UK Government’s tax and spending plans in a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

As a result, Scotland is due £1.2 billion in Barnett consequentials from UK spending choices, while the £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit has been extended to September, as has the furlough scheme.

Calls had been made in recent days by opposition parties and poverty groups to make the Universal Credit increase permanent.

Rishi Sunak holding up the red box before the 2021 Budget
The Chancellor announced his Budget on Wednesday (Aaron Chown/PA)

But, in a statement issued after the announcement, the SNP Westminster leader said: “The Tories are threatening Scotland’s recovery with a return to austerity cuts, an extreme Brexit, and a Budget that completely failed to deliver the meaningful change and investment needed to build a fairer society.

“The UK has suffered the worst economic slump of any major economy, UK unemployment is rising, and millions of families have seen their incomes slashed – but the Chancellor has added to this misery by imposing a public sector pay freeze, cliff edge cuts to Universal Credit, and tax rises for millions of workers.”

Mr Blackford said voters in Scotland faced a choice between “two futures” at May’s Holyrood election.

“The long-term damage of Brexit and Tory austerity cuts at Westminster, or the opportunity to protect our place in Europe and build a strong, fair and green recovery as an independent country,” he said.

“The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic, the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson? With both votes SNP we can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross praised the Budget, describing it as delivering “vast economic support and investment to individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland”.

He added: “The Scottish Conservatives worked closely and constructively with the Chancellor in recent months.

“That has now positively delivered on many of our demands that will help Scotland’s economic recovery and continue to support those who need it most as restrictions continue.”

Despite Mr Blackford’s attack on the budget, business groups in Scotland have welcomed some changes, in particular, to the furlough scheme.

Andrew McRae, the Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the announcements “gives the bulk of Scotland’s small business community more fuel to get through the last lap of this crisis”.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance also welcomed the extension of furlough, but the chief executive, Marc Crothall, said there needed to be a “robust and tapered financial support package” that is “delivered quickly to the businesses who need it the most”.