Now is the time to end this bloated bureaucracy … and give us all the tax break we deserve
POLITICIANS are fond of saying that ‘tough choices’ lie ahead — and they normally mean tough on your bank balance.
The SNP’s spending review today (Tuesday, May 31, 2022) comes with the usual portents about the tightening squeeze on finances.
Naturally, the Tory Government is to blame, for denying Scotland the ‘levers’ critical for promoting economic growth.
It’s almost as if devolution never happened, but the proof that it did is inescapable — from endemic waste to a bloated public sector.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reckons Scotland faces a £3.5billion black hole and that cuts or tax increases will be needed to address it.
Slashing the education and justice budgets are rumoured to be on the agenda — and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes says we need to be ‘canny’.
The chances of this spendthrift, amateurish outfit adopting a more cautious attitude to spending your money are somewhere between negligible and non-existent.
But Miss Forbes should be looking closer to home when she carries out her forensic audit of the nation’s financial position — starting with the behemoth of the state, which under the SNP has grown to monstrous proportions.
Before more tax raids are considered, or services cut, the axe should fall on quangoland and the fat cats who preside over failure and inefficiency.
Boris Johnson plans to scrap more than 90,000 civil service jobs, a suggestion greeted with something verging on hysteria on the Left — but even if this reduction happened, it would only take the payroll back down to 2016 levels.
In Scotland, the number of devolved Scottish civil service officials rose by 1,100 (5.2 per cent) to 22,200 between 2020 and 2021, and by nearly 30 per cent in the past decade — up by 5,070 from 2011.
Meanwhile, the total public sector headcount for Scotland increased by 38,500 at the end of the first full year of devolution in 1999 to 589,600 in the final quarter of last year.
Business is booming for the state in all of its manifestations, even if in the real world it’s struggling to get by after the lockdown years — when ministers routinely failed to grasp the scale of the existential crisis many firms were facing (and indeed still face).
And let’s not forget the apparatchiks paid, at your expense, to put a positive gloss on the government’s blunders, which is, in fairness, a time-consuming job.
The number of government public relations staff has soared by more than 50 per cent since 2018, so that there are now 175 in the communications department — compared to 115 four years ago — at an estimated annual cost of £7.4million.
Another £1.3million was spent on the First Minister’s team of 13 special advisers, or Spads.
Before budgets are shrunk for the justice system, at a time when courts remain in chaos, or education, when the attainment gap blights the life chances of thousands of pupils, perhaps the propaganda unit should take a hit.
Public life is replete with spinners on good salaries whose primary task is shielding taxpayers from the truth about just how badly their organisations are performing.
Last week we revealed that the latest SNP Government diktat will see members of quangos compelled to sign up to a code of conduct which forbids them from criticising employees in public, a backdoor attempt to crack down on pesky whistleblowers — and their inconvenient principles.
Yet any realistic hope of economic revival lies with the private sector, the engine of growth, even if that’s a concept vehemently opposed by the SNP’s Marxist Green allies.
Home-working public servants on four-day weeks and strictly controlled hours, often with bumper pensions to look forward to, now occupy a realm far removed from the bleaker reality the rest of us have to put up with.
The gulf between public and private may be unbridgeable — and the consequences for the economy will be severe.
Bear in mind that the civil service has been given the task of drawing up a prospectus for an independent Scotland.
We’re paying them to live in a parallel universe, while the problems in this one are multiplying at a frightening speed — many of them created, or made worse, by the SNP.
Cut the SNP’s failing secret state down to size, and with the cash saved reverse the tax burden which means Scots are penalised simply for living north of the Border — under a government which once described higher-rate taxpayers as ‘rich’.
It’s not as if the tax-grab has gone to plan — despite tax rises equivalent to £500million, the Scottish Fiscal Commission forecasts that weak growth in the tax base means revenues will be nearly £200million lower this year than if income tax hadn’t been devolved.
According to the IFS, new Scottish welfare benefits could cost £1billion more by 2026–27, which will mean less cash for public services or, you guessed it, tax hikes.
All of which means we’ve paid a steep price for the SNP’s statist dogma — and now we’re being told the pain isn’t over yet, and could get worse.
That’s hard to stomach at a time when economic illiteracy and doublethink abound.
Commenting on the UK Government’s windfall tax on energy, the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman said on Sunday that it ‘feels very unfair that Scotland is having to pay for the entirety of the UK’ .
She argued that 90 per cent of the money raised by the energy profits levy will come from oil and gas ‘income made in Scotland’.
Strangely, the Aberdeen North MP — the SNP’s work and pensions spokesman — didn’t mention her own party’s decision to turn its back on the industry, jeopardising more than 100,000 jobs.
And Scotland benefits from a fiscal transfer of around £12billion as part of the UK.
The sum generated by the one-off windfall tax, if it was all retained in Scotland, would be £1,800 per household — less than the annual benefit we receive from UK-wide pooling and sharing, which the SNP wants to end.
Meanwhile, a Tory analysis last year found that more than £4.5billion of taxpayers’ money has ‘vanished into a black hole of SNP incompetence’ since 2007, from the ferries fiasco to the Rangers malicious prosecution scandal.
The IFS says that ‘expensive policy commitments, underlying spending pressures and revenue weaknesses mean the Scottish Government has three choices — axing, taxing [or] hoping and praying’.
For once, though, it shouldn’t be taxpayers who are forced to bear the brunt of the reckoning to come — we’re already suffering enough as energy bills, inflation and interest rates continue their seemingly inexorable rise.
Hope and prayer won’t wash — it’s time to get real, and there are indeed ‘difficult choices’ ahead for the SNP — as the chickens finally come home to roost for this wasteful, chronically inept regime.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on May 31, 2022.
- *Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant