The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that is the deficit coming in our nation’s finances by 2026-27 thanks to decisions by the Scottish National Party leadership. None of the remedies is palatable.
Nicola Sturgeon will have to go cap in hand to Westminster and ask for more cash. Or try to raise taxes. Or impose savage cuts. Not Westminster cuts. Not “Tory cuts”. Homemade SNP cuts.
It started when the First Minister got what she wished for and was less than careful with the powers she got. She got the power to raise income tax. In the name of her distorted vision of social justice, she made Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.
The result, as the IFS has pointed out, is that the Scottish Government has raised almost £200 million less than they would have if income tax had not been devolved. Where they predicted a £500 million gain, they have made a loss – but only noticed after they had spent it.
The SNP’s John Swinney was the first person I heard claim that unionists had said Scotland was “too stupid” to be independent. I have never heard a unionist make that argument. But he and his colleagues seem hellbent on proving the point.
Whatever the constitutional arrangement, the current Cabinet in Edinburgh clearly don’t have the competence to run it. They can ask for whatever economic or political lever they care, none of them will work if the levers in their heads don’t.
What happens to ferry services when a £97m contract, which became a £250m budget buster meets a £3.5bn blackhole? What happens to a drastically reduced rail service when it is asked to take its share of cuts to plug a gap like that?
How can failing schools do anything other than continue to fail as they are cut? How will hospital waiting times be cut when funds are cut? If this government was a patient you would call an ambulance for it, but what hope would there be that one would turn up?
Decent people who believe in independence must despair that Nicola Sturgeon seems to be making the case that Scotland cannot run itself.
Sturgeon’s cuts will hurt the poorest but I am sure she will find a couple of million to fund more spin doctors to try to convince us all that it is England’s fault. Boris the bogeyman will be doubled in size.
But this homemade deficit is entirely made in Bute House. The country that once built ships now puts up with soundbites. We don’t manufacture steel, the First Minister manufactures photo opportunities. We do not engineer inventions, we engineer invented grievance.
We will all pay the price for a £3.5bn hole in Scotland’s finances – caused by the fatal hole in SNP ministers’ competence.
Murdo Fraser is Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife