All Eyes on Swinney as He Sets Spending Agenda for Scotland

By Chopra, Vishal | Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), November 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

All Eyes on Swinney as He Sets Spending Agenda for Scotland


Chopra, Vishal, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland)


TAXPAYERS must wait for the Scottish Govern ment to set out its spending plans after an Autumn Statement in which several of the headline developments had limited relevance to taxpayers north of the Border.

Chancellor George Osborne set out his latest spending plans last Wednesday against the backdrop of the increased forecast for GDP, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. Indeed, the success of his plans relies heavily on a stable, growing UK economy.

But what does the latest Autumn Statement mean to those of us in an increasingly devolved Scotland? The Autumn Statement and Spending Review is a precursor to the Scottish Government Budget that will be set out by Finance Secretary John Swinney next month. Both have impacts on Scottish spending. It is interesting that there wasn't as much granular detail in the Autumn Statement as usual, and instead this was about the bigger picture.

The big headlines were related to the U-turn on tax credits, which were lauded as a huge victory for lower income families after a wave of criticism directed at the Chancellor since the summer. However, it is worth holding offon the celebrations. While an estimated 250,000 families across Scotland can breathe an immediate sigh of relief, the plan to introduce Universal Credit across the board is still on the horizon.

This new system could see a two-parent family working full-time with two children up to £1,030 worse off, for example. Although quietening critics for the time being, the impending changes will soon deliver similar challenging impacts to many.

This is just one of many policies that contribute to the growing generation gap. While working age benefits will remain frozen until 2020, state pensions will go up next year by 2.9 per cent - the biggest increase in 15 years. With an ageing population, this divergent approach to the different demographics is likely to have a significant long-term impact.

The UK government is considering a major shake-up of the current pensions tax system, and is expected to announce its decision to implement a system similar to an Isa at next year's Budget. The housing and property sector also saw significant support - with Osborne committing £20 billion to the cause. Better access to affordable housing is a key objective - improving the stock of affordable homes by 2020-21 and increasing stamp duty to discourage buy-to-let investors in an effort to support those who can't afford to buy.

These plans are unlikely to impact Scotland directly. …

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