On December 14 the Scottish National Party (SNP) Finance Minister, Derek Mackay presented to the Scottish Parliament the Scottish Government’s budget for 2018-19. It is yet another example of the ruling SNP’s pro-capitalist approach to solving the problems faced by our economy. Its claim that 1.4 million working people who earn less than £26,000 will be better off due to paying a lower percentage of taxes due to a change in the tax band system announced by our financial genius, Mr Mackay, is equivalent to throwing dust in the eyes of reality. He declares that the introduction of a new 19 per cent tax band will in effect mean lowering of taxes for those earning between £11,850 and £13,850. However, Mr Mackay’s budgetary juggle will add only £7.50 a month to those earning less than £20,000 a year! And not only that, in fact 1.6 million wage earners who earn more than £26,000 will be worse off as they will see an increase in their tax rates.
The Mackay budget does not even satisfy its credentials on capitalist economic terms. As reported in the Scottish edition of the Sunday Times on Sunday 17 December, Mr Mackay was unaware of the economic term ‘Laffer Curve‘ which indicates that lower taxes boost growth. US-based Mr Laffer (no friend of the working class) told the Sunday Times that the current measures by Mr Mackay “will put Scotland on a par with Greece: they discourage growth”. Quoting late US President, John F. Kennedy, Mr Laffer said that “the best welfare is good high-paying jobs, and you get that through low taxes that enable companies to invest and expand”. Hence the SNP cannot develop the Scottish economy and therefore will be unable to raise the living standards of Scottish working people by capitalist means.
Mr Mackay’s announcement during his Budget speech that the new Land and Building Transaction tax threshold will be increased to £175,000 is another example of the SNP’s drive to expand the private ownership of property and increase its vote bank among the proprietor classes. There is no mention of tackling homelessness in Scotland. Shelter Scotland reported “every 19 minutes a household in Scotland becomes homeless. 3250 homeless families in Scotland are staying in temporary accommodation and in one year there has been a 10% increase in rough sleeping”.
We need more investment in social housing. Renting is a disgrace and is a source of economic burden and utter humiliation for working people. Rent eats into the vital financial resources of the working class and wages running out before the month has become a common occurrence.
Landlordism should be abolished. Landlordism is a parasitic practice that sucks away the hard-earned wages of the working people.
The announcement that those working in the public sector will be given a 3% pay rise is a joke. The actual demand of the £10 an hour minimum wage is at the core of Scottish workers’ demands at every protest rally held since the referendum in 2014. And this rise has been cancelled out as he has allowed the 32 Scottish local councils to raise Council Tax by 3%! The SNP is transferring the burden of austerity cuts over to the working classes by allowing the councils to raise taxes.
To give corporations tax relief should be an eye opener for many SNP rank and file workers who joined this party of the Scottish bourgeoisie during the early period of the century when it posed as a ‘progressive’, centre ‘left’ party.
The Scottish Government is in its true sense trying to manage a deficit budget by manipulating numbers.
How does the SNP Government plan to deal with the curse of zero-hour contracts and the fact that a £7.50 minimum wage is far too little to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living? What about people in our country being pushed into debt and economic hardship due to the unjust practice of Universal Credit? And what about the savagery of the almost decade-long pay cap on public service workers?
How does the SNP Government plan to tackle the issue of Child Poverty? According to the Child Poverty Action Group, more than a quarter of children are living in poverty. John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group told this scribe that increasing Child benefit by just £5 a week would help to lift 30,000 (14%) children out of poverty in Scotland.
The same day as the Budget was being thrown at us, the Scottish Fiscal Commission published its first (and very depressing) independent forecast of the onshore Scottish GDP growth. According to the report, growth will remain under 0.9 per cent until 2021. Hence, the GDP growth forecast for 2017 and 2018 is 0.7 per cent, 0.6 per cent in 2020 and 0.9 per cent for 2021. The SNP has absolutely no clue as to how it could strengthen our GDP and increase the GDP to grow more than 1 per cent over the next four years.
The SNP Budget has focused itself on temporary solutions. These include cuts and raising taxes. They have no concrete plans to generate sustainable growth that could generate a GDP above 3%, the standard GDP growth rate that is demanded by the European Commission as a pre-condition to join (and remain in) the European imperialist club. Hence, even after having the mandate to call for a second ‘Indy Ref’, the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is hesitant to take this bourgeois adventurous road.
As the Scottish Nationalists try to put on a brave face in the wake of an insulting and demeaning budget that was approved with the support of the Green Party, the question that the Left in general and the Scottish working class in particular now is faced with is how to organise a popular mass movement that presents the concrete demands of the working classes as the core of such a movement. How to counter the SNP’s reactionary pro-capitalist government and replace it with a totally new economic system that prioritises the abolition of private property through nationalisation of vast swathes of economy, establishes a people before profit economic morality, abolishes landlordism and makes free access to social housing its top priority and establishes equal pay for all genders and ages?
Marxist-Leninist Tendency (MLT) Scotland, a newly formed political organisation that aspires to reunite Scottish working people under the slogan ‘Class Before Nation’, is calling on all trade unions and left-wing political organisations, including left campaign groups, to gather at 12 noon on January 6, 2018 at the Buchanan Street steps near the Donald Dewar statue in Glasgow to show their disapproval of an anti-people budget. MLT is calling for sections of Scottish Left and STUC to put ‘class before nation’ and unite under the banner of fighting austerity and a pro-capitalist SNP Government and to demonstrate in practice that Scotland is ready for the battle against austerity.
Amjad Ayub Mirza is the Scottish representative for ‘Friends of ICOR’ and moderator for Marxist-Leninist Tendency in Scotland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza