Across the nations, reaction to the chancellor’s budget yesterday has been lukewarm at best.
Across the nations, reaction to the chancellor’s budget yesterday has been lukewarm at best, with a widespread belief that whilst there were a number of measures that could be welcomed, the overarching economic climate remains grim.
Observing that the UK government’s economic strategy has quite simply “failed”, Scottish finance secretary John Swinney declared that the chancellor had “failed to deliver for Scotland” ahead of September’s referendum. Noting that it was Westminster’s “last chance to show it could create opportunity for Scotland and reject the diet of austerity” he commented:
“This budget confirms a further squeeze on public spending and a further austerity plan
“The £63m added to the Scottish budget today is small beer compared to the significant cuts Scotland has faced since 2010. The chancellor is planning a further £37 billion of cuts across the UK over the next two years and tens of billions to come afterwards. These cuts would be worse still if Scotland does not vote for independence and Westminster takes the knife to the Barnett formula.
“The reality is Westminster has presided over the weakest recovery in living memory, and since the downturn began the UK has had the weakest performance of any G7 country outside of Italy.
“UK public sector debt is now set to reach £1.5 trillion, its highest level in history, confirming that the chancellor’s economic strategy has failed.”
Dubbing it a pre-election rather than a pre-referendum budget, the Scotsman in its leader column said of yesterday’s announcements:
“The referendum choice Mr Osborne poses is simply between himself doing what he can to make life easier, and the uncertainties of independence dependent on volatile oil revenues.
“But behind his cheery titbits still looms a dark and foreboding shape – a huge deficit, an overhanging cliff of national debt, and miserly fingers of austerity picking at the pockets of the poor.”
For the Herald meanwhile, the statement confirmed that the UK government’s economic strategy has been a failure. It explains:
“Had austerity been applied less drastically, the long economic winter might have ended sooner. The chancellor’s boast that UK growth outstrips that of the United States and Germany is disingenuous, given that the US and Germany recovered healthy levels of growth long before the UK. The Labour leader Ed Miliband was only telling it like it is when he reminded the chancellor that living standards have fallen for millions of people.”
Accusing the chancellor of helping the wrong people, it continued:
“This Budget was an unashamed appeal to the Tory heartland…Mr Osborne chose to raise the higher-rate tax threshold by more than £800 by next year. This will make a difference to a limited number of households that are currently under duress, particularly single-earner households, but it will also benefit millions on high incomes who do not need it.”
For the Welsh government, its finance minister Jane Hutt has declared the budget to be “full of missed opportunities”. Attacking the chancellor of failing to do what was needed to boost and support capital investment, Hutt responded:
“This is another Budget full of missed opportunities for Wales and does nothing to boost economic growth.”
“As the Office of Budget Responsibility say, the measures announced by the Chancellor today will “have a negligible effect on annual GDP growth.”
In Northern Ireland, whilst welcoming some of the measures outline in the Red Box, its finance minister Simon Hamilton has warned that it confirms a “sustained period of budget constraint”. He expanded:
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“The chancellor’s Budget continues to reflect increasing UK economic growth and that is to be welcomed, with Northern Ireland companies contributing to that growth. However the chancellor has made it clear that the UK government must continue to curb its debt and that any fiscal gains from higher economic growth will be used to reduce our national deficit.
“Unfortunately that means that the public sector is facing a sustained period of budget constraint. My view is that this also provides an opportunity to begin a process of reform so that we actually improve services despite reducing budgets. The task will not be easy but it is one we must face up to and provide solutions for.”