Across the nations the chancellor’s Budget statement has met with a less than enthusiastic response.
Whilst welcoming what he describes as the chancellor’s “U-turn” on support for the North Sea Oil industry, the SNP’s deputy first minister John Swinney has slammed the UK’s government’s continued austerity drive.
Swinney, also the Scottish finance secretary, confirmed as well that, based upon figures published by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), Scotland will see another £12 billion of cumulative cuts in real terms over the period to 2019.
“The chancellor had every opportunity to end the damaging cuts from the UK government and has instead turned his back on investment in public services.
“We face the same £30 billion of unfair and unnecessary cuts today as we did yesterday. That is despite the clear admission from the chancellor that there is headroom to invest to protect our public services.
“If we are to believe the chancellor that the economy is making such a successful recovery, then there is no justification for the destructive cuts that impact on the most vulnerable in society. That tells you everything you need to know about the values and priorities of this chancellor.”
Speaking on the measures to support the north sea oil industry, he continued:
“Measures to safeguard the North Sea are a step in the right direction for our oil and gas sector. The Scottish government has been calling for such measures, along with the industry, for some time. Today’s measures are a glaring admission by the chancellor that his policy for the North Sea has been wrong and the poor stewardship by the UK government has had a detrimental impact on our oil and gas sector and the many people who work in the industry. It has taken the chancellor four years to admit the tax rise he implemented in 2011 was a mistake. A heavy price has been paid for this mismanagement.
“Today I cautiously welcome the U-turn by the UK government to take action on the future of the North Sea. We will study the proposals in detail. It is now essential that work is focussed on boosting investment and growth in the North Sea sector.”
In Wales, finance minister, Jane Hutt has noted that the final Budget of this Parliament means that since 2010, Wales has seen real terms cuts of 8 per cent since 2010.
Declaring it to be “yet another Budget which leaves too many challenges and unanswered questions”, Hutt responded:
“The UK government’s austerity programme during this Parliament has had a devastating impact on Wales and is set to continue with a further £30bn of cuts forecast up until 2017-18.
“Let’s not forget that since 2010, our Budget has been cut in real terms by 8 per cent by the UK government. That’s the equivalent of £1.5bn being taken out of the public services across Wales. We have always said that these cuts have been too fast and too deep and others agree. Only last week several independent commentators including the LSE said that the pace of the austerity programme had been a mistake.”
“This is the chancellor’s fifth major Budget and another missed opportunity to address the crucial issue of fair funding for Wales, something the Welsh public also recognise. We have also been seeking greater financial flexibility to put us in line with other devolved administrations – the fact that neither of these have been addressed is disappointing to say the least.”
Across Northern Ireland, whilst responses from the politicians have been sparse to say the least, minds will once again be focussed on corporation tax.
With all parties at Stormont focussed on seeking a way out of the crisis brought on my Sinn Fein’s decision last week to pull its support for welfare, the Chancellor once again urged all sides to get behind the Stormont House Agreement if it is to secure the coveted prize of gaining powers over the setting of corporation tax.
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter
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