SNP conference: message to May
If austerity is over then show us the money, says Mackay
Derek Mackay: called for an end to welfare cuts (pic: Terry Murden)
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay took a swipe at the Prime Minister’s claim to have ended austerity by calling for an end to cuts to his welfare budget.
Mr Mackay, said that despite Scotland gaining new powers the single biggest factor in determining the Scottish budget remains the block grant from Westminster “that has been under Tory attack for the best part of a decade.”
Over the ten years to 2019-20 the Scottish Government’s budget is being cut by £2.6 billion as a direct result of the Tories’ obsession with austerity, he told delegates attending the SNP annual conference in Glasgow.
“Theresa May announced the ‘End of Austerity’ at the Tory Party Conference – given their track record, forgive me if I don’t take her word for it.
“For us that means an increase in public spending and reversing pernicious welfare cuts, stimulating economic growth. For the Tories that means tax cuts for the richest.
“We must see support for Scottish industry and the UK Government to match our commitment to 100% coverage of regional growth deals.
“And above all we must see an end to the welfare cuts that has seen £3.7 billion taken out of our economy and cause such misery to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. That would be an end to austerity.
“So I say to the Prime Minister – spare us the soundbites – show us the money!”
In a dig at the Chancellor who has called an early UK Budget, he said: “The UK Government is supposed to give the Scottish Government ten weeks’ notice of the date of their budget, to allow us to prepare properly for ours.
Not a sub-committee: Mr Mackay criticised the Chancellor over the Budget (pic: Terry Murden)
“That we got less than five weeks’ notice, and we were only informed after the chancellor had written to a Westminster sub-committee, says everything you need to know about the ‘respect agenda’.
“Chancellor, we are a nation, not a sub-committee.”
Mr Mackay, who confirmed he would be introducing a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and a Scottish National Investment Bank next year, he noted that “economic growth is now outperforming the rest of the UK.
“Over the last year our onshore economy grew by 1.7 per cent, compared to 1.3% for the UK.”
He added: “You would think that this would be something that would be welcomed by all politicians in Scotland, sadly not.
“When stats showed Scotland’s economy doing less well than the UK there was a queue of unionist politicians telling us we were all doomed and it was the SNP’s fault.
“Now that we are doing better than the UK they have mysteriously gone quiet. The reason for this of course is that they are petrified of Scottish success as they see it as a threat to their ‘precious union’.”
Mr Mackay announced two new initiatives: a grant of £730,000 to Clyde Gateway to support the development of a new £2 million headquarters for the STUC and a Financial Health Check for older people and low income families.
Scottish Labour Finance spokesman James Kelly said: “Shameless soundbites and reheated announcements won’t cover the fact that Derek Mackay has not asked the richest to pay a fair share.
“Labour welcomes the idea of financial health checks for older people and low income families. We welcomed it in the 2017 Programme for Government, the 2018 Programme for Government and when Nicola Sturgeon announced it in 2016 as well.
“What Derek Mackay should have given SNP conference today was a cast iron guarantee that the cuts to local services – which total £1.5billion since 2011 – would finally end.
“Only Labour is offering a radical vision of real change, making the richest pay their fair share to invest in public services and grow our economy.”
SNP delegates called on the Scottish Government to consider action to tackle the gender pay gap and explore the option of prohibiting public bodies from asking for salary history in the recruitment of employees to ensure that women are consistently paid a fair market value for their skills.