by Stephen Noon
Another year and another British budget. This year the budget comes in a sharp shade of blue, but regardless of the political colour the reality for Scotland is always pretty much the same.
We sit and watch as London decides what is right for the economy, but of course the economy they are focused on is never Scotland’s.
Year after year we play a central role of sorts, as the provider of the extra money. The taps are turned and the flow of revenues from the North Sea increases. But so little of the benefit trickles north. This year in fact sees the highest ever revenues from North Sea Oil – an eye-watering £13.4 billion.
Today’s budget wheeze was a new tax on Scottish oil. A move that will raise £2 billion of new revenues for the UK Treasury. And this windfall revenue will fund a halt in the planned 4p rise in fuel duty and allow a further reduction of just 1p. Welcome yes, in so far as it goes. Scotland pays £2 billion more but the benefit to Scotland’s economy and Scottish families is just £200 million. That puts the so-called Union dividend in context.
I can’t help thinking that if this was a Scottish Budget there is so much more we could do. We could use even just half the extra revenue – £1 billion – to fund a proper reduction in Scottish fuel bills worth not 5p but 25p a litre. Now wouldn’t that be good news for family budgets and businesses across Scotland?
And with the £1 billion remaining? How about half of it on increased investment in Scotland’s infrastructure to enable us to create thousands of construction jobs and drive forward recovery?
How about a quarter of it used to cut corporation tax further, making Scotland a key competitive location for business investment and growth.
And the final quarter? My vote would go to a £250 million transformational investment in childcare and early years. Giving Scottish parents the level of childcare enjoyed in other small, independent nations.
How would you spend a £2 billion revenue windfall to make Scotland better. Let me know by leaving a comment below.
Are we just engaged in a game of Fantasy Budget? Yes, at the moment. But fantasy can become reality. In a few short weeks the people of Scotland will have their say. We can choose a better way. We now know the numbers – the prize to be won is a £2 billion revenue bonanza. And with fiscal responsibility and independence that is a prize Scotland can claim.
Wouldn’t it be great if next year it is John Swinney, not George Osborne, who stands up on Budget day? John Swinney who tells us how he intends to spend Scotland’s revenue windfall. Then we would see a real Budget for Scotland with action to create jobs and action to make Scotland fairer.
What a difference we could make with a Scottish Chancellor using Scotland’s resources to invest in Scotland’s economy and society. And it is within our grasp. If you, like me, want this future for Scotland, you can volunteer to help the SNP or simply sign up on the SNP website to pledge your vote.
Then we can have a truly Scottish budget, not one that is red, white and (or) blue.
Stephen regularly blogs here.