There was disappointment, anger and devastation as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland learned the full scale of the cuts they would have to endure in the CSR.
As a result of decisions made in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Scottish Government faces (page 48) a 7 per cent real terms reduction in resource spending and a reduction of 38 per cent in capital expenditure over the course of the spending review period. This will be matched by a 25 per cent reduction in the Scotland Office’s resource budget.
Reacting to the announcement, on the day that Scottish GDP grew at its fastest rate for four years, Scottish National Party Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie expressed concern the spending decisions made would halt the recovery. He said:
“George Osborne has pulled the rug from under recovery with these reckless cuts, and risks plunging the country back into recession.
“It is bitterly disappointing that the Chancellor has ignored the cross-party case made by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect growth in the economy and so set the course for sustainable public finances.
“The chancellor would have us believe that there is no alternative to his hard and fast cuts, and that is just not the case. The strong GDP figures published by the Scottish government today show that Scotland is on the road to recovery, but underline what is at risk if Scotland’s recovery choked off by irresponsible cuts from Westminster.”
In Wales, the Assembly Government faces (page 50) a 7 per cent real terms reduction in resource spending and a reduction of 41 per cent in capital expenditure over the course of the spending review period. This will be matched by a 25 per cent reduction in the Wales Office resource budget.
Respondong, Plaid Cymru leader and deputy first minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru Leader and Deputy First Minister said:
“This announcement is a devastating blow to the Welsh economy. Plaid has consistently argued that the Conservative-Lib Dem cuts were too soon and too deep.
“It is especially concerning the way the Conservative government have attacked welfare payments, targeting sickness and housing benefits in particular. There is little doubt that Welsh jobs, Welsh businesses and the Welsh people will feel the pain of these mistakes.”
In Northern Ireland, the Executive faces (page 52) a 7 per cent real terms reduction in resource spending and a reduction of 37 per cent in capital expenditure over the course of the spending review period. This will be matched by a 25 per cent reduction in the Wales Office resource budget. However, it was formally announced (page 52) that the coalition remains committed to the £18 billion of investment promised to Northern Ireland under the St Andrew’s agreement.
Deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, however, insisted the Northern Ireland secretary had reneged on the deal:
“I am very angry… I am going to hold my counsel on this until we have a full picture, but the initial reaction is one of great anger to the fact that it appears, at this stage, that Owen Paterson, who went on the record as saying they would honour the £18 billion commitment, appears to be far from honouring that position as we stand here today.”
In Northern Ireland, a third of workers are employed by the state – the highest proportion of any area. This morning, Mr McGuinness’s colleague Gerry Adams said the Northern Ireland assembly should be recalled immediately to debate the spending cuts.
It will now be for each of the devolved bodies to set their own budgets based on the much tight fiscal package handed to them by Whitehall.
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