December 10, 2023


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Programme for Government tees up a politically charged budget#Programme #Government #tees #politically #charged #budget

First, there was the 60-page document setting out the Government’s priorities and 14 Bills for the year ahead, with an accompanying half-hour speech by the First Minister.

The package had been trailed by spindoctors as something of a catwalk for Mr Yousaf, a chance to show he was his own man. There would be razzle, perhaps even some dazzle.

In the end, it didn’t work out.

Despite some unusually personal passages, including one on miscarriages, there was little sense of a turning point.

Mr Yousaf continued policies set in train by his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon, with his glowing praise for business almost the only thing setting them apart. 

And while he foregrounded measures to tackle poverty, notably expanding free childcare, many anti-poverty charities declared themselves underwhelmed.

Where was the £5 extra on the Scottish Child Payment he vowed in the SNP leadership contest, they asked.

“Encouraging but vague” was the summation of one thinktank, which seemed about right.

The other anti-climax was all but automatic. 

The PfG is a set piece of the Holyrood year. But it is only the warm act for the budget, which says how the aspirations will be paid for. 

This year’s PfG threw even more attention onto the budget by dropping a clue to its content.

On Monday, Mr Yousaf said the challenges facing the public finances were the most difficult he’d seen in his 11 years as a minister.

He may have had in mind the  Scottish Fiscal Commission, which recently warned of a £1billion gap between spending and income in 2024/25.

Under the Government’s own projections, the shortfall will hit £1.9bn by 2027/28. 

One way to cope is to govern on the cheap.

Mr Yousaf’s new plan in the PfG to support entrepreneurship and innovation was backed by just £15m, for instance, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it amount in an overall budget of £60bn.

The other option is to raise more revenue

Mr Yousaf issued innovative “mandate letters” to his cabinet secretaries, listing their tasks for the year, a tacit threat to focus minds on results. 

Significantly, finance secretary Shona Robison must use “tax powers in the setting of the 2024/25 Budget to further progress delivery of the most progressive tax system in the UK”. 

The FM included another clue in his speech: “I will never shy away from the belief that those who earn the most should pay the most.”

It all points to tax hikes ahead of the general election.

Ms Sturgeon used to win elections. 

If Scotland’s tax burden keeps rising, Mr Yousaf may deliver a turning point after all. 




#Programme #Government #tees #politically #charged #budget

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