Hunt’s Budget deemed ‘betrayal of public services’ by Scottish Finance Secretary

Scotland’s Finance Secretary has blasted the Chancellor for a “betrayal of public services”, after he unveiled a Budget that included another cut to national insurance.

Jeremy Hunt told workers the levy will be reduced by a further 2p from April, following a similar reduction in January.

The two cuts combined will leave 2.4 million workers across Scotland an average of £900 a year better off, the UK Treasury said.

But Shona Robison, the Scottish Finance Secretary and Deputy First Minister, accused the Chancellor of putting “unsustainable” tax cuts ahead of investment in public services.

In the run-up to the Budget, Holyrood ministers had been calling for increased funding for capital projects.

While policies announced by the Chancellor will see an additional £295 million come to Scotland in Barnett consequentials, this is all money for day-to-day revenue spending – although Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott noted: “The Scottish Government have unlimited ability to be able to change that resource spending into capital spending, if they so wish.”

Both she and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the UK Government had chosen to cut national insurance rather than income tax – which is devolved to Holyrood – so workers in Scotland benefit.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said Scottish workers will benefit from the national insurance cut (Victoria Jones/PA)
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said Scottish workers will benefit from the national insurance cut (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Jack declared: “It’s absolutely vital that we get a tax cut to everyone in the United Kingdom, and that tax cut has to come through national insurance because the Scottish Government, I don’t believe would pass on the benefit to hard-working people in Scotland.”

Ms Trott said it was a “Budget which is absolutely for the Union and benefiting the Union”.

However Ms Robison hit back, and said: “Today’s UK spring Budget is nothing short of a betrayal of public services across the UK.”

With the Scottish Government having had to halt building work in the NHS and cut spending on affordable housing, the Finance Secretary added: “Our hope had been the Chancellor would have eased pressures on services, not least by providing more funding for capital.

(PA Graphics)

“When more support is desperately needed for public services and infrastructure, for greater cost-of-living measures, and for money to aid our efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Scotland has been badly let down by the UK Government.”

She complained the Budget will mean “not a single penny more for capital funding” as she added the additional funding coming to Holyrood is “less than what is needed to address the pressures we face”.

Ms Robison continued: “The national insurance cut fails to offset the crippling effects of the cost-of-living crisis. There is also little detail of the spending cuts needed to pay for it.

“Public services up and down the UK are in real need of investment, and they’re being sacrificed to deliver unsustainable tax cuts.”

But Ms Robison was challenged by industry body Homes for Scotland to spend the additional cash the Scottish Government will receive on affordable housing.

Chief executive Jane Wood said: “We are calling on the Deputy First Minister to honour her commitment that any extra money made available to Holyrood will be prioritised for the affordable housing supply programme.”

This, Ms Wood said, would “help mitigate the prolonged housing inequality experienced currently in Scotland”.

She added: “With multiple local authorities having already declared housing emergencies, and our recent independent research finding that over a quarter of Scottish households find themselves in one or more forms of housing need, housing should rightly be prioritised by the Scottish Government.”