The National:

IN these unprecedented times, the Chancellor regularly tells us that he and his department are unable to save every job in the UK, due to the cost and scale of such a task. Indeed, if he was being sincere, I would have some sympathy for him.

However, to find £29m in this week’s Spending Review for a festival of Brexit when similar financial support could not be found to provide free school meals, or extend support to the 3 million excluded freelancers, self-employed and others, reeks of the worst kind of hypocrisy that we have come to expect from the Tories.

Once again, there was nothing in the Chancellor’s announcement for those he has wilfully excluded from financial support since the beginning of this crisis.

Seemingly not content to stop there, he unveiled plans to curtail the UK’s aid budget by a third, breaking a manifesto promise in the process, and losing a Foreign Office minister who resigned after calling the plans “fundamentally wrong”.

Perhaps the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom are not as broad as ministers would have us believe.

READ MORE: Alison Thewliss expertly trolls Rishi Sunak over redacted document gaffe

Whilst I welcomed the UK Government’s announcement earlier this month to extend the Job Retention Scheme to March, ministers must take cognisance of the consequences that their endless dawdling on this matter has had for employees and businesses.

The Office for National Statistics reported recently that the number of payroll employees has fallen by 782,000 since March 2020 – a truly staggering number.

On countless occasions, I and others asked the UK Government to think longer-term, like many of our European neighbours, to secure people’s wages for the duration of the pandemic. Now, inaction has cost people their livelihoods.

This is not just about bashing the government, it’s about asking them to learn from their mistakes, to swallow their pride and do better by workers across the UK.

Similarly, it is incumbent on the Treasury to sort out the ongoing mess of companies omitted from furlough support due to mistakes made by departments such as HMRC. I have seen countless examples from casework, including those raised with HMT months ago still with no response.

Some businesses have had funds awarded, and then clawed back after the event. Without corrective measures and clarity on eligibility for future claims, many of these businesses will needlessly go under.

The increases to the minimum wage in this Spending Review are pitiful; a 7p increase for 16-17 year olds and 11p for those aged 18-20 will make little to no difference, whilst the apprentice element will remain a pittance when it rises to just £4.30 in April.

This is state sanctioned age discrimination, and it’s high time it was ended.

Just why the Chancellor has taken aim at many of the public sector workers who have steered and supported us through these tumultuous times, offering no pay rise in April, is beyond baffling.

READ MORE: 'Fundamentally wrong': Tory MPs pan Boris Johnson over brutal spending cut

The numbers on this make no sense – the Treasury has committed £280bn so far to the pandemic response, yet the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that any pay freeze will likely save only around £1bn. The malevolence on display here is profound. All of these workers deserve far better than applause on the Chancellor’s doorstep in the summer and a pay freeze in the depths of winter.

We urgently need clarity on the Chancellor’s plans for next year if things don’t go his way. We have already seen the disastrous effects of his failure to plan, and we simply cannot find ourselves in a similar situation in six months’ time, with redundancies escalating and household budgets shrinking.

I will continue to make the case for a targeted fiscal stimulus package for Scotland that’s infrastructure-led, delivers new jobs, and helps us on our transition to net zero. If the Chancellor isn’t willing to take these pragmatic steps, then the powers must be devolved to Scotland to allow us to get on with the job.