Thursday, 13 March 2008

Budgets of Contrast

The latest Budget offering from Westminster was once again lacking in ambition and damaging to Scotland.

The Chancellor announced a £50 increase in winter fuel allowance. That's better than nothing, but at less than £1 a week it doesn’t begin to cover rising fuel costs, and the increase is only for one year. How are pensioners going to deal with their rising fuel bills after that? And what about other vulnerable people who are struggling to pay their fuel bills, who aren’t even eligible for the winter fuel allowance?

Alastair Darling made a big song and dance about getting people on pre-paid meters a better deal, but he’s really only making a vague commitment to talk to the energy companies about the issue. That's not going to address the fundamental issues around fuel poverty.

People need warm homes, not warm words from the Chancellor. The measures announced in the Budget are sticking plaster solutions to much wider problems, caused by unacceptably high levels of poverty in this country and spiraling fuel prices.

This Budget once again highlights the poor deal that Scotland gets from the union. The figures demonstrate that the UK Treasury is being bankrolled by Scottish resources like oil revenues, yet we merited not one single mention in the Chancellor’s Budget. Scotland is not only being short-changed by Westminster, but we are being dragged down by continued poor management of the wider UK economy, which is being led into greater and greater debt by this discredited New Labour Government.

The SNP Government in Holyrood was able to deliver a far more ambitious budget for Scotland, despite the limited powers of devolution and a tight financial settlement from Westminster. The New Labour Government at Westminster has had over a decade to tackle issues like child poverty, and they are still tinkering around the edges. It’s time we started to take important decisions over tax and welfare here in Scotland, to ensure that the people of Scotland are not short-changed by yet another Westminster Government.

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