THE use of the phrase “level up” when discussing infrastructure or the economy is the most obnoxious bit of focus-grouped nonsense patter this Tory Government has come away with.

The phrase rarely makes sense when used outside the context of video games. Boris Johnson, the embattled Prime Minister who I am certain has never touched a video game in his entire life, loves to talk about “levelling up”.

In fact, “levelling up” and “getting Brexit done” were the only things he ever bothered to talk about during the 2019 election. Though I suppose there wasn’t much time to substantiate the policy behind those phrases while hiding in a freezer.

I don’t think anybody really had any clue what “levelling up” was supposed to mean. If asked, the Prime Minister would talk about new nurses and new hospitals that weren’t new at all. So this week’s spending review is one of the first real glimpses into what “levelling up” actually means to this Prime Minister and his Government, and it is utterly grim.

In the last government, with Philip Hammond as Chancellor, they proudly declared the end of austerity was “in sight”. After a decade of back-breaking austerity that lead to the UK having more food banks than McDonalds, it was a welcome bit of news.

Then as the Covid-19 pandemic began to unfold, the government announced massive spending to aid people and businesses. Many worried that this would mean austerity would be doubled down, but the Prime Minister went on Peston and promised it would not be part of the Covid-19 recovery policy.

The spending review makes it clear that the Prime Minister has no intention of keeping that promise. Headline features of the spending review include a miserable increase of the minimum wage, a pay freeze for 1.3 million public sector workers, and a massive cut to overseas aid.

Boris has to make his thinly veiled dog whistles and has to be seen to be appealing to the well-worn myth that any cut in money to other countries must mean there will be more money for us in Britain. But this assumption is completely untrue. Because that money isn’t being spent on public sector wages – those have been frozen – it’s being spent on a “levelling up” fund.

The freeze on public sector pay is equally as galling. How any politician can stand at the despatch box and declare that public sector workers – who have already had their pay frozen for a decade – don’t now deserve a decent pay rise is beyond me. It is embarrassing. It is the brassiest of brass necks.

The freeze of the minimum wage is equally as galling. During this crisis, the lucky among us – myself included – have been able to work from home, avoiding our risk of contracting the virus.

So many of our essential workers are people earning on or around minimum wage: people working in fast food that we had delivered safely to our doors to keep some sense of normality; supermarket staff who worked tirelessly to keep shelves stocked and ensured we could keep a safe distance from each other in the shops are just two examples. Their work is essential and they should be paid as such, but the Chancellor decided that 21 and 22-year-olds only deserve 16 extra pence per hour; 18 to 20-year-olds only deserved 11p extra per hour, and if you have the nerve to be a person working at the ages of 16 and 17, you are getting a paltry 7p extra per hour.

On what the Government – that we didn’t vote for – have most recently announced regarding financial plans, I defer to the words of my colleague and shadow chancellor for the SNP, Alison Thewliss.

“Yet again, Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster. This failure will make the growing Tory unemployment crisis even worse, squeeze living standards even further, and risk a protracted downturn by starving the economy of funds,” she said.

“It shows, yet again, that Westminster cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests.”

She is, as always, absolutely right. Scotland has never once endorsed austerity at the ballot box.

We reject it time and again because we know that to create an economy that works for everyone, we must invest. An economy in turmoil needs stimulus, not ideologically driven austerity.

The Prime Minister promised that austerity would not be his plan for economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.

It should surprise no-one when those promises evaporate.