‘The Only Thing Growing In Scotland Because of Hammond Is The Number Of Foodbanks’

As the Office of Budget Responsibility sets out how cuts will continue until at least 2022, Richard Leonard was incredulous at the refusal of Phillip Hammond to let up on austerity at the Spring Statement today. The Scottish Labour Leader said:

“It is time once and for all to end the failed experiment of austerity. The Tory handling of our economy has hammered wages and living costs. Workers are stuck in low paid, insecure work while the price of housing and rents have soared.”

“Nothing sums up the Tory failure on the economy more than the shameful levels of poverty and inequality our country faces. All Philip Hammond has ever offered are tax cuts for big business and the rich, and public spending cuts for the rest of us.”   

Most of the political attention today has been focused on the planned cuts to free school meals in England, and the fiscal crisis in local government. This is not immediately relevant for Scotland, as education and council finances are devolved - but any reduction in expenditure down south has a knock-on effect on Scottish spending thanks to the Barnett consequentials.

One announcement that will have immediate relevance for Scotland is the the increase in the so-called ‘National Living Wage’ from April to £7.83, well below the real Living Wage of £8.75. However, analysis by the Resolution Foundation has found that increases in the National Living Wage will not make up for the significant reductions in in-work benefits, partly because not all low-earners are in low-income households. £2.5 billion worth of benefit cuts are expected to come into effect in April - in a move they have calculated will make 11 million families worse off. These cuts include a real terms reduction of 3% for working age benefits; the introduction of the two-child benefit cap; and changes in allowance following the rollout of universal credit.

Lesley Laird, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland concentrated her criticism of the Chancellor on the dire effects of his policies for child poverty, particularly the growth of food banks due to cuts in social security. Following the Spring Statement, she said:

“Today’s Spring Statement showed more breathtaking complacency from a Chancellor who claims he can see light at the end of the tunnel. But his party’s discredited economic policies have brought the darkness of austerity to communities across the country.”

“In Scotland, the only growth we see is in the use of food banks with a rise of 20% in the last year, and the numbers of children living in poverty – 260,000 children right now, with another 100,000 expected to be added to that number in the next four years.”

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