Osborne’s budget is found wanting

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Chancellor George Osborne failed to address the UK’s accumulating debt (now nearly £1,500 billion and growing by tens of billions more every year) in his Westminster show on Wednesday.

There is the certainty of more UK government cuts to come in the next few years whichever bunch is in power, and Scotland will not be ­immune.

The SNP deputy leader (your report, 19 March) may say that his Holyrood alternative is a credible responsible reduction in the deficit while providing real growth in public spending, but it doesn’t stack up either.

Stewart Hosie may have forgotten that last year the then First Minister Alex Salmond tried to put the screws on Westminster by asserting that he would not take on any share of the UK’s accumulated debt unless we got our fair share of the UK’s accumulated assets (about £120bn each).

The UK still has assets close in values to its debt, but Scotland had and has nothing of its own in the bank.

The acknowledged annual fiscal deficits (eg Gers 2014) would, if separate, get close to £15bn at current oil prices, obviously building up fast to a scary sum. We do not face that because Westminster subsumes it in that mounting £1,500bn.

We continue to spend more per head than the average UK citizen as well, consequent on the block grant Barnett distribution.

Mr Hosie should acknowledge this, and explain how his magic formula will make the debt straitjacket disappear if full fiscal devolution comes about. Still hanging about seems to be the 2014 Scotland’s Future assertion that Westminster will act as our lender of last resort, it does indeed do that now, but there is the reverse responsibility too.

Joe Darby

Dingwall, Ross-shire

GEORGE Osborne doesn’t remotely address the key issues facing our tax system today – how much is actually paid, and by whom.

The UK struggles from an incredibly regressive taxation system, further compounded by the immense degree of tax dodging by major corporations successive Westminster governments have failed to address. 
Holyrood too is not exempt from such necessary criticism. Local government, ­including local taxation, has been fully devolved for almost 16 years now, and yet the ­council tax, which ­suffers from being both highly regressive and insufficient to raise the required funding, remains, albeit at a frozen rate.

If we want to address both the austerity programme, which is devastating lives and communities across Scotland, and the deficit, so often used to attempt to excuse or justify that austerity programme, we need action on both these fronts.

At Westminster we need action to close tax loophole and tax havens operating as British protectorates. (Ever wondered who runs the ­Cayman Isles? The UK.) At Holyrood we need to implement the Scottish Service Tax, a local income tax which is equitable and progressive and which lifts the tax burden from hard-working families, while making the ­richest pay their fair share and addressing the funding crisis local authorities across Scotland currently face.

It is good to see the Chancellor concede that we need taxation reform. Let’s just make sure that in future it is the kind of reform which will actually meaningfully impact on working-class ­people and families for the better.

Calum Martin

Scottish Socialist Party

Clerk Street