The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 10th February 2017

A less than radical budget

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

THE 2017—18 Scottish Budget was agreed last week. This was the first such occasion when the Scottish Parliament had the powers to set its own income tax rates and bands. It was the perfect opportunity, therefore, for the Scottish National Party (SNP) to put into practice their radical rhetoric with their long-sought powers. They only brought forth a mouse however, and continued their carefully disguised austerity policies.

Despite the loud noises constantly coming from the SNP, it is worth remembering that they are in fact only a minority government. On this occasion they got the Budget passed only with approval from the Greens, who also inadvertently displayed the hollowness of their radical rhetoric.

Tory Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser denounced the “lentil-munching sandal-wearing watermelon party” but the Greens were definitely not watermelons, green outside but red inside — they were more like mangos, green outside but SNP yellow inside. The only concessions the Greens sought were very meek and mild. Perhaps they harbour dreams of a ministerial post or two in a coalition.

The SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay made a rabble rousing speech to proclaim that the Scottish Government would use its new income tax powers in a “fair and balanced way”. Only a single modest alteration was made to income tax. The top rate 40 pence income tax in Scotland now starts at £43,000 instead of £45,000 as in the rest of the UK. The SNP wanted the starting point to be the inflation-adjusted figure of £43,340 but the Greens took the revolutionary step of insisting on the lower figure. Labour plans to increase the present 45 pence rate on those earning over £150,000 to 50 pence did not get a look-in.

The other small party that could make or break the SNP budget was the Liberal Democrats, but their shopping list for £500 million for education and £200 million on unfashionable mental health was too expensive for the austerity supporting SNP.

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale attacked the Greens for being “fig leaves to the nationalists”, and vainly pleaded with Green co-convener Patrick Harvie to “maintain his opposition to the cuts to services, to local schools and care of the elderly.”

Curiously, for all their moans about austerity, at the last minute the SNP discovered a spare £220 million. Of this around £25 million will go to Police Scotland, £35 million to Scottish Enterprise (this merely cancels a planned cut) and the remaining £160 million to local authorities. One wonders why the Greens have suddenly become so keen on law and order when they could have demanded more money to subsidise organic farming or increase home insulation.


This “spare” cash has caused the Fraser of Allander Institute think tank at Strathclyde University to wonder how so much money was magically pulled out of the hat when only a small fraction, £30m of this, is from the new tax-raising powers.

One should not be too surprised at the SNP not wanting to increase taxation on the rich. During the Referendum campaign they boasted about how an independent Scotland would prosper by ensuring that corporation tax would be three per cent below that of England.

As soon the final Budget was announced SNP MSPs took to social media to send off identical massages about how good the Budget was for their localities. Local government union Unison quickly saw through the SNP’s boasts and pointed out that the final budget offered nothing more than a slight reduction in the cuts originally planned. They estimate that although the original local government cuts were to be around £327 million, the “extra £160 million” trumpeted about only means a cut of £167 million, which is no cause for rejoicing. Unison expects that local councils will suffer from an expected drop in the yield from business rates and from councils not putting up the council tax despite now being allowed to.