Scottish Budget: SNP should fear voters' wrath if they fail to deliver – Scotsman comment

The Scottish Budget, laid out by Kate Forbes at Holyrood yesterday, will have sounded good to many voters in Scotland, particularly those on the left.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes delivers the Scottish Budget for 2022-23 (Picture: Fraser Bremner/pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes delivers the Scottish Budget for 2022-23 (Picture: Fraser Bremner/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The Finance Secretary’s focus on tackling child poverty and climate change, while helping the economy recovery from the devastating impact of the Covid pandemic, will chime with the views of many.

Interspersed within the long list of hefty spending commitments in Forbes’ speech to Holyrood were digs at the UK government. If only Scotland was independent, it could do so much more was the message.

And that is essentially SNP tactics in a nutshell: to win over Scots on the left of the political spectrum by creating the idea of a profound difference between the values north and south of the Border.

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One thing that Forbes did not mention was quickly pointed out by Scottish Conservative Shadow Finance Secretary Liz Smith – Scotland is benefiting from a “record block grant funding” from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

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That is surely something to consider for those undecided about independence who found themselves bowled over by Forbes’ rhetoric.

While many would agree Forbes has chosen the right priorities, the difficult bit – spending the money wisely and well, rather than wasting it – is still to come. And delivering on election promises and warm words is an area in which the SNP has sometimes struggled.

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For example, Scotland has world-leading emission-reduction targets, but it has been missing them. WWF Scotland welcomed several measures announced yesterday, such as extra funds to decarbonise home heating, but added that the overall package “falls short of the transformational budget needed for the climate and nature emergency we still face”.

If we as voters allow governments to be judged purely on what they say they will do, rather than what actually happens, the result is a free pass for bad decision-making, with real consequences for the NHS, education and other public services.

Nicola Sturgeon’s admission that her government took its “eye off the ball” over drug deaths, ahead of the May election, should never be forgotten. If we want good government and better public services, we need to make sure the SNP realises that the prize it values most – independence – is at risk unless they maintain a laser-like focus on their ‘day job’ of running the country.

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