This Insider Special started out as a Scottish Budget special but events overnight have yet again reminded us that any forward planning in these febrile pre (Br)exit days is pretty pointless. Prime Minister Theresa May is facing the toughest day of her short Downing Street tenure as she faces a No Confidence vote triggered by her own MPs. We suspect she will survive (as Mrs Thatcher did initially) but only just – and then go in the spring.
Closer to home and the day’s main domestic focus should be the Scottish Budget statement, to be made by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP later this afternoon. Live updates will be reported via the BBC: BBC Budget link
Derek Mackay has a reputation for being one of the shrewder – and sharper – brains in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet team. He has made clear that today’s statement will not be defined by Brexit, which is maybe just as well as no-one has a clue what is happening today, never mind in a year’s time.
The Scottish Government is much less ‘leaky’ than Westminster and they do not indulge in the slow drip-feed of perceived good news to the same extent that Philip Hammond and his team do. Nevertheless, one or two carefully placed interviews this week have made it clear that investing in public services and growing the economy will be prioritised in spending plans to help protect Scotland’s prosperity as far as is possible in the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit.
In one interview Derek Mackay said: “I will set out the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. The Budget will protect vital public services and prioritise spending on health, education and economic investment. The 2019-20 Scottish Budget will support the vision in our Programme for Government by ensuring we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.”
Parliamentary arithmetic means that the SNP minority administration must strike a deal with at least one other party. Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have all ruled this out already – so it is widely expected that, once again, Derek Mackay give in to demands from the Scottish Greens for a raft of unpopular tax rises as the price of a Budget deal. And although specifics are hard to predict, it is likely we will see a further freeze to higher levels of income tax thresholds. This follows last year’s decoupling from point where the 40% income tax rate applies.
We will include a link to a full summary of today’s Budget statement in our usual Friday Insider but, as ever, if anyone has any specific queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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