WHEN the Chancellor stood up yesterday to deliver his austerity Budget, we expected much of what we were told.

What was not expected was the extent of the attack on the low-paid, the young and those entering the jobs market.

Take the announcement on the “National Living Wage”. This might seem positive, but it hides a real and serious attack on people in low-wage jobs and young people who are trying to enter the jobs market.

Instead of what we want – a meaningful living wage paid for by business which boosts take-home pay – for many workers this will not even make up for what was cut the same day. For many it fails even to compensate for cuts to tax credits.

The starting level of the UK Government’s scheme is £7.20 – well below the £7.85 of Scotland’s current recommended living wage. Young people most affected by the recession and cuts won’t get any increase in wages.

The real living wage is based on people getting existing tax credits and housing benefit, so any National Living Wage must be far higher to compensate. What was promised in the Budget does not come close.

What this Budget hides is that individual families will bear the brunt of austerity cuts. The Chancellor has shifted some of the balance from public services to the public themselves.

Dramatic cuts to child tax credit will reduce the amount families receive and cut incentives to work. Around 70 per cent of Scottish households which receive tax credits are working households with people working hard but for low pay. Cuts make it harder for people to get and keep jobs – exactly the opposite of what a healthy, growing economy should do.

It makes no sense economically to take help away from hard-working men and women who are working and doing their best to support their families. But it isn’t just these families who will bear the brunt – we all will.

The Scottish Government has faced a 10 per cent cut in our overall budget in the last five years and the Chancellor yesterday said deficit reduction would take place at the same pace in the future.

Despite revising down productivity and export figures in each of the next four years there was little in this Budget to boost productivity or to set out a strategy for growth.

We agree the deficit needs to be reduced but it must be done more gradually, with more resources ploughed back into investing in the economy. When people have jobs they spend money in local communities and tax take goes up.

Austerity isn’t working and this Budget has simply given us more of the same.


George Kerevan: A merciless attacks on the poor ... to the sound of cheers

Equality: This Budget continues the project which impoverishes women

Foodbanks: ‘Economic security’ is an alien concept to many of those who use our services

Inheritance tax: Making a system more complicated when it needs simplicity

Disability: Why we are sceptical about Osborne's promise

Unemployment: The National Living Wage is a slightly less low minimum wage

Child poverty: Child poverty ... Measures will do precious little for the poorest families in Scotland

Housing: Pushing those already suffering further into poverty