Jim O’Neill reviews the UK Chancellor’s budget, and looks forward to the Finance Secretary using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to actually make a difference, for once.


The Autumn Budget of 2017 is clear proof, if proof were needed, of the failure of the Tories’ economic strategy over the past seven years, and of the fact that they have neither the economic know-how, nor the courage, to move on to a different path.

Faced with the worst economic growth outlook in living memory, and the possibility of two decades of pay decline, Spreadsheet Phil’s response is “let’s build lots of driverless cars.” Phil, no-one will be able to afford such fripperies. We will all be trying to work out how to pay for basic needs such as bread and milk!

Apart from the respected economists who write for the Daily Mail (Prop Lord Rothermere from his “tax efficient” bases in the Bahamas and elsewhere) and the Daily Express (Prop Dirty Desmond), and no I can’t name them either, every respected economist, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies on, has said that this budget only extends austerity, but has no plan to reverse the downward trend of GB plc.

So, let’s look at some of the proposals. The highlight(?) was the removal of stamp duty on first time buyers’ houses. The pretty unanimous judgement on this is that it will do little to solve the housing crisis but a lot for the housebuilders’ profits as it will inevitable drive prices up. Indeed, the £44bn he has set aside for new homes is little more than a drop in the ocean.

Two sectors were particularly noisy before the budget, education and health, who identified clearly the amount needed to stand still, and arrest the decline. Both were given substantially less than needed. Indeed, can it be a coincidence that Phil, who tried to joke his way through the budget, gave £350 million extra for winter pressures, a number that Boris Johnston and Michael Gove, looking on, might recognise as the figure they promised would accrue to the Health Service each week as a result of Brexit?

And his scraps from the table for Scotland, allegedly forced on him by the new Scottish Tory MPs, included transferable oil tax credits and a refund of VAT for Police and Fire and Rescue Scotland, an issue that both Labour and the SNP had been campaigning on since before the last election. I am sure,too, that Universal Credit recipients are panting with gratitude for the minor changes to waiting time and housing benefit advances, while totally ignoring the devastating welfare cuts still to come.

Meanwhile, he set aside £3bn for Brexit to keep the slavering hordes of ultra Brexiteers in check for now. He made no reference, however, to the large sums, in excess of £45bn, that the Cabinet have now agreed to pay Brussels for the privilege of leaving.

Mind you, we in Scotland have an extended period of budget pain. Now that Derek Mackay knows his consequentials, both revenue and capital, he can draw up his plans to kickstart the Scottish economy. He faces similar pressures both in education, where one union is already taking strike action, and in health, where European doctors and nurses are abandoning our shores, health boards are reporting substantial deficits, and facilities are mothballed because boards can’t afford to staff them. And that is not to mention local authorities, who have lost thousands of valued staff over the past ten years and have seen key services cut. And they now find that the much vaunted Health and Social Care Partnerships are descending into deficit also.

Meanwhile, we still have our own housing crisis to deal with, and we need a boost for our own manufacturing industries, rather than, for instance, importing Chinese steel for the Queensferry Crossing.

So, we now wait with bated breath to see whether the Finance Secretary will use all of the tools in his locker, including progressive tax, to present a budget that will begin to restore Scotland to the economic power it once was. Go on, Derek. I dare you.

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46 thoughts on “An irrelevant budget

      1. I know that David, have you never seen the car crash on this by Johann Lamont during First Ministers question time.

        I bet Jim has !!! Check it out on YouTube. Try Johann Lamont new forth crossing, it’s hilarious.

        1. Thanks for your comment Davy .Yep bad day at the office haha . Different days Check out a bad day at the office for Daimien Green at PMQS today When Emily Thornton asked him the same question from 17 years ago haha

      1. Jim: No one in Scotland tendered for the supply of steel for the Forth crossing. What would YOU have done, commensurate with EU procurement law if you were the Scottish Government, in that position?

        1. Tata Steel’s Dalzell works in Motherwell was part of a consortium bid which lost out to overseas competitors for the supply of steel for the Queensferry Crossing. The line that no Scottish firms bid is dishonest. It is the SNP government’s line. Don’t parrot SNP lies here.

          1. Tata Steel’s Dalzell works in Motherwell was part of a consortium bid which lost out to overseas competitors for the supply of steel for the Queensferry Crossing.

          2. I’d be curious to know how much extra that consortium bid was. I can’t imagine the extra revenue in the Scottish (& UK if that’s where the rest of the consortium was from) economy being ignored

  1. “Two decades of pay decline” +”how to pay for basic needs such as bread and milk”.

    Yet Scottish Labour insist that increases in income tax are the way forward.
    We really must confront low economic growth in Scotland. Find a way to get indigenous industry ( not branch factories) up and running.
    That is the only way to fund those basics we all need.
    Its all very well having a progressive tax system (time we started COLLECTING tax from certain companies and individuals), but unless we have a thriving industrial sector, we will surely carry on declining.
    And the Scottish government has its hands tied vis a vis tax. We just don’t have enough tax streams available for a modern economy.

  2. “And his scraps from the table for Scotland” but that’s what Labour effectively campaigned for during the Independence Referendum, so why are you complaining about it?

    There was an opportunity to change all that, yet you didn’t want folk to go for it.

  3. Dave it did not matter what any party said people were not convinced .
    The pensioners were worried how was an Independent Scotland going to cope with the pension bill
    How would an Independent Scotland going to pay for the NHS etc
    Then there were the people like me who just did not want to do it. And before I get attacked very senior SNP people told me that is an honourable position as I respected their position
    Because of brexit I am now a don’t know leaning very heavily toward Indy at the next Indy ref if we get one
    And the FM knows Europe was not raised on the doorstep .
    And I don’t think it will be next time either
    But raising tax will and you will need more than NAE UK money
    And maybe not putting in the local paper the orange vote did it would help

    1. The pensioners were flat out lied to by YOUR Labour and Tory colleagues with the collusion of BBC Scotland. We’re not forgetting that.

      1. It was no lie to say pensions would have been under threat in an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government would have inherited the cost of paying pensions and John Swinney’s leaked dossier warned explicitly of the difficulty we would have in covering those costs and the costs of new pensions.

        1. No Duncan, the lie was quite explicit:
          “The former Prime Minister said leaving the UK would mean “the British pension stops, the national insurance fund that you’re paying into is broken up. ”

          That “British pension” would not have stopped and the DWP confirmed that to be the case.

          1. What are you quoting from? When did Better Together say the British pension would stop?

          2. I think this might be what you are looking for: David Cameron’s ‘No going back’ speech (source: Independent: 16/09/14) “If Scotland votes yes, the UK will split, and we will go our separate ways forever…The United Kingdom would be no more. No UK pensions, no UK passports, no UK pound.”

        2. What specific threat Duncan? We know what the specific threat to our pensions are within the union it is right wing Tory ideology and Labour party mismanagement of the economy so what exactly is the threat to pensions in an Independent Scotland?
          Why can countries like Luxembourg New Zealand Iceland Norway and Denmark afford pension schemes while Scotland cant?
          It was a bare faced lie told to pensioners of a specific threat to pension existing as a direct result of Scotland taking its Independence from Westminster especially when the greatest threat to all our pensions is Westminster itself.

          What was the difficulty leaked in the document Duncan?

          1. There’s no point in having this conversation with you Mike. You don’t believe we are in deficit, and you think independence would mean we have more money to spend. Because you don’t understand basic economics.

        3. Sorry Duncan but I remember the guy who was pensions minister saying that everyone’s pension was safe and that even if you stayed in France you would be paid your pension.

          Because if you had paid into the UK pension system you were still entitled to a UK pension, regardless of independence.

          It was just the better together team that was spreading the shit about the pensions, it was one of the most disgraceful items of their campaign.

          And you should be ashamed for trying to pretend it didn’t happen.

          1. But that is simply untrue. There IS no fund into which people pay in order to accrue their state pension. State pensions are paid out of current taxation, not some historically accrued fund.

            And what the pensions minister confirmed, which you’d know if you read the actual news rather than Wings Over Scotland, is that anyone already in receipt of a UK pension at independence would retain it, but payments of all new pensions occurring after independence would, naturally, be the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

            Indy would have left a massive black hole in Scottish finances. Pensions would have been at risk alongside everything else. It’s not a lie.

          2. Duncan, you are deliberately mis-representing what I said, I suppose it is just your normal method trying to get out of a very very deep hole.

  4. Gavin I agree with most of what you say But this will be an SNP gov tax raising budget .Take it up with them ten let us know what you find out
    And we should all be supporting the GMB in their attempt to support Remploy workers they need government support

  5. Why does Leonard want to Nationalise Scottish Water? From Scotland.

    Is it to take it under southern control?

  6. It’s just a pity, Jim, that labour fought tooth and nail to limit the powers available to any Scottish government. Those powers amount to not much more than varying income tax – notoriously difficult to co in a ( for now ) a unitary state, and, in Scotland’s flatter wage structure, could amount to taxing ordinary workers to compensate for Westminster austerity; and frankly, if Scotland did raise taxes by more than a token rate I wouldn’t be confident that Westminster wouldn’t find a way to cut the block grant.
    Why no powers over national insurance, do you think? Why no powers over other forms of earnings like savings or dividends, or assets? Why, of the nine most important taxes, only the most difficult to operate?
    It’s almost as if Westminster was willing the Scottish Parliament to fail.

  7. The Scottish Parliament can make all the difference in the world if only it were fully Independent of Westminster and all of its reserved authority eh Jim Bob?

    “Faced with the worst economic growth outlook in living memory, and the possibility of two decades of pay decline”

    But this is exactly what you campaigned for in 2014 Jim Bob. This is Scotlands legacy for its No vote and its only going to get worse. We haven’t even had Brexit yet we have that to look forward to.

    There is something really vile and sick about somebody whining about a situation they helped to create.

    If Labour in Scotland keep supporting the idea of allowing Tory Governments to run Scotland from London then you have no right to complain about the consequences let alone try and lay the blame at the door of the party trying to free Scotland from London Tory rule.

  8. Duncan

    “There’s no point in having this conversation with you Mike. You don’t believe we are in deficit, and you think independence would mean we have more money to spend. Because you don’t understand basic economics.”

    According to those who tell us we’re in deficit its a deficit we have within the Union not one which is measured for an Independent Scotland.
    We will have more money to spend because we retain all of our reserved to Westminster revenues. How will that not result in more money to spend?

    We both understand basic economics which is why you and your side of the argument have to lie and I and mine don’t.

    And with reference to a previous post of mine why did you censor most of it and post only the last question?

  9. Duncan

    “Tata Steel’s Dalzell works in Motherwell was part of a consortium bid which lost out to overseas competitors for the supply of steel for the Queensferry Crossing.”

    “The two consortia were Forthspan, which included Morgan Sindall, BAM Nuttall and Balfour Beatty; and Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), which consists of Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge, and Morrison Construction.”

    Tata Steel were not part of the bidding process Duncan. You stupidly lied again.

      1. “Indirectly” mean NOT DIRECTLY Duncan. They did not ACTUALLY participate in the bidding process.
        We cant even tell how indirectly they think they were involved because its just a detail free statement made by an undisclosed source. For all we know you’re the source.

        Which is why “The two consortia were Forthspan, which included Morgan Sindall, BAM Nuttall and Balfour Beatty; and Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), which consists of Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge, and Morrison Construction.” Are being credited as the ACTUAL bidders.

        This is Labour once again trying to spin another SNP bad story out of nothing. Pitiful and pathetic but standard for Labour.

        1. No, it wasn’t an undisclosed source. Can’t you read? It was a spokesman for Tata Steel. It said so in the newspaper from which I quoted and to which I linked.

          1. an unnamed spokesman is an undisclosed source Duncan. Like I said it could just as easily have been you.
            Lots of things are reported in so called newspapers that aint true. More so in so called Scottish newspapers.
            So undisclosed source unreliable links and nothing that actually holds up to support the actual claim being made. Standard fare from Duncan.

  10. My Laptop skills are not good . I did try to check this this is a small part of what I have found.
    Transport Scotland said no steel companies from Scotland or the UK made a bid to supply materials for the Queens ferry crossing contract .
    They also said a sub contract for Steel Fabrication was awarded to Cleveland Bridge of Darlington raw steel for this contract came from Tata Steel in both Scunthorpe and Motherwell .
    Transport Scotland said contrary to misleading speculation there were no Scottish bids for steel Fabrication Subcontracts
    When I commented about pensions it did not matter what both sides said .
    It was what people thought once minds are made up .Its very hard to change them I make no political point on this people just would not change their minds on it
    That’s a lesson both sides should remember next time
    In times gone by when I was out of work again another factory closed.
    I wrote to Geoffrey Howe to tell him his budget was mince and that’s the words I used . I also told him the many reasons I thought his budget was mince now I love mince but there was nothing in Geoffreys budget for me.
    I got a reply from Sir Minion explaining the many good things for me that I had not noticed in Geoffreys budget.
    Sir Minion was pleased to tell me that he had made an appointment for me at the Jobcentre
    This caused great laughter in my family because what Sir Minion did not know but could have found out if he had checked with the DWP and waited 45 mins even in those days to get through .
    I was attending the local jobcentre every day . I was writing for jobs that I saw in the local and national papers
    If Sir Minion had cared to enquire he would have learned I got that many rejections without interview that the postman chapped the door one day and said he had been asked by management to enquire if I was running a business from home if I was the postoffice had special rates for that .
    So I know how people felt when Phillip Hammond made his unemployment remark and incidently when John Swinney did the same when Finance Secretary
    In Irvine I met a guy I have known for years worked for the same company for 7 years a roughcaster got laid off on the Wednesday will be rehired in the new year . By the Tuesday DWP were telling him despite the fact he was attending the jobcentre every day looking for work
    That’s not enough to keep his Job seekers allowance . He said the Job centre security officer can vouch for him being there
    On the night of the election .On hearing the projected result . One of PM Mays advisors fainted maybe he or she saw jobseekers allowance coming .And realized he or she was not going to be doing enough to keep it

  11. I hope Duncan will print this as I would like to bring to every ones attention . A very brave woman Dr Elsie Inglis was one of Scotlands first women Doctors she offered to help on the ww1 front line but the war office turned her down saying good lady go home and sit still . Well she did not .She set up 17 Scottish womens hospitals across France Corsica Greece Macedonia Romania and Serbia. Of the 1500 personnel only 20 were men.
    The hospitals served the war effort from 1914 until 1919 before being disbanded in 1925
    Dr Inglis before the war worked in Edinburgh doing medical work in Edinburgh Slums for women and babies with very little medical facilities for the poor .She kept on working saving Soldiers lives knowing she had Cancer . She died in 1917 the day after returning to Britain
    Her descendants and dignitaries including the FM and Princess Anne .marked the centenary of her death with a gathering at her grave in Edinburgh A very brave and inspirational woman
    I watched a documentary on the BBC it was a film about another group of very brave people The white Helmets of Alleppo The squad the camera was following risked their lives 24 7 . to rescue innocent people caught up in the murderous bombing and chemical attacks that are destroying Syria . No punches pulled about the effects of the attacks .Dead babies being pulled from the rubble .Dead cats as well people left with serious disabilities animals also left disabled animals feeding of the dead .
    The overrun hospitals The gratitude of the people rescued by the white helmets . I and the helmets laughed at their colleague who screamed with fright when he discovered what he thought was a baby he was rescuing was a cat trapped in a pillow and it was not a happy cat
    It came across very clearly the shear spirit of the ordinary Syrian people . They were trying to go about their ordinary lives School compulsory
    Jobs shops and always looking up for Drones We were told that if the drone saw any kind of crowd in the open no matter how innocent weddings or kids playing football day or night . A rocket or bomb attack would follow within minutes no avoiding civilian casualties .
    People including the white helmets were asking what did we do to deserve this .
    We saw arguments with people traffickers who had promised to get people out including one of the white helmets featured in the film. They could not get them out of Aleppo because it was to dangerous even for people smugglers . The hatred for Bashar as they called him not Assad and the Russians was palpable .They were pleading for the violence to be ended I saw no evidence of armed groups on the streets
    Although its a war zone .
    There were moments of black humour one of the white helmets we were following who had been dodging bombs all day and who was seen on film repeatedly pulling people out of buildings .
    Suddenly asked is it 5pm yet when asked why he was going to his brothers wedding
    The squad the camera team was following was big but had been taking casualties of their own especially to car bombs.
    They could see as they said drones and planes .But they said you can only be careful you cant tell with a car parked
    At the end of the film The car our squad of white helmets was in was heading at night towards an area that was under a heavy bombing attack Bright lights were coming down in showers and exploding on contact .Its how I have always imagined the world would end when I was a boy watching invasion from Space films .Its the only way I can describe it
    In the car heading toward it. The White Helmets were calm speaking on their mobiles and radio getting updates on the situation etc.
    The White Helmet in charge who had been seen arguing with people traffickers about not taking his family out when they said they would was on his mobile
    He was speaking to his daughter he was laughing as she told him her sister was pulling her hair .Their brother was making it worse trying to separate them .
    Their other sister said she was eating from a bowl and would speak to dad in the morning .
    Well when I heard that I knew what was coming
    The screen went briefly blank then it appeared to be daytime our squad were in a hospital they were casualties
    Covered in grime in shock all injured and 1 dead .
    It was our white helmet whose daughter had been to busy eating to talk to dad
    I cant tell you how much that documentary upset me
    The one thing that clearly came through was the never say die attitude of the people of Aleppo And the bravery of the White Helmets
    Syria is like a building site the one thing it does not need is more bombs .
    I hope I have done justice to what I saw in a 90 min documentary which has affected me deeply
    I hope you don’t mind this comment Duncan its long and not what the blog is about
    Jim I hope if Duncan prints it you don’t mind either .
    Doctor Elsie Inglis who worked with Edinburghs poor . Then set up a string of hospitals across war torn Europe and saved lives
    And Syria the White Helmets saving people and losing their own lives
    And as I write this the world is holding its breath to see what President Trumps reaction is to the latest North Korean missile test

  12. If you were telling the truth Duncan, the media would have been jumping all over it.

    But they didn’t.

    Another loss for Duncan.

  13. Again not making a political point but should the FM at least not have been in the chamber today . For the statement on the police
    As should any other party leader who was AWOL

  14. Did not realize the official ceremony for Doctor Ingles was Wednesday . That’s why FM not present. I thought it was Sunday which was a private family affair . Brave woman

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