SCOTLAND is effectively facing three crises in one: a massive cost of living surge, a significant budget squeeze affecting central and local government, and rightful pressure from public sector workers and others to reverse real-terms cuts in wages in the light of soaring inflation.

How should the Scottish Government, and the Scottish trade union movement (of which we are a proud part, as the 14,000-strong official trade union body within the SNP), respond?

As Deputy First Minister John Swinney clearly and frankly set out the situation, we have a devolved government in Scotland which is financially shackled by the UK Treasury, which remains the ultimate arbiter of all things financial.

This means that the Scottish Government cannot run a deficit, has limited borrowing powers, few economic levers, and limited tax powers. Until Scotland chooses independence, that is the status quo.

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Appeals for financial support from the UK Chancellor are therefore entirely appropriate and unavoidable.

But it is obviously not enough.

The Scottish Government needs to think creatively about the powers it does have, even if these can ultimately only mitigate – rather than fully address – the cost of living crisis.

It needs to do this in active dialogue with those affected by the latest wave of Westminster-driven economic damage to Scotland – not least trade unionists and those on the frontline of the crisis.

From now until the Scottish people choose independence, any Scottish devolved government is in a severe bind. Without a shift in wealth and power, the days of significant improvements to Scottish public services are over.

On crucial issues like public sector pay, the Scottish Government and local authorities are caught between a rock and a hard place.

In spite of the constraints, it is vital that the Scottish Government seeks out any potential sources of extra revenue it can generate. To retain the trust and confidence of the people it must be seen to do this with urgency and intent.

Our own view is that the threat of cuts and the public sector squeeze mean that every effort should be made to increase the tax contribution of higher earners across Scotland.

Local authorities should also be given the power and discretion to introduce taxes to meet local needs and protect local services, as well as a process through which we replace council tax with a new residential property tax related to actual value.

There are other measures that could also be considered. A whisky industry levy is one we are currently pressing. Common Weal and the STUC are among those who have further proposals, and with whom we are in active dialogue.

Equally, what remains of the Unionist left in Scotland needs to wake up and smell the coffee. As long as they continue to defend the UK’s Chancellor and Prime Minister being the ultimate arbiters of our economic policy, Scotland’s public services, workers, and those who these services are meant to provide for, will go on suffering.

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THE idea that a Labour government at Westminster will eventually save us is fantasy. Keir Starmer has abandoned every progressive pledge he ever made, and the party on both sides of the Border continues to ignore the democratic will of the Scottish people.

The United Kingdom also has the worst anti-trade union laws in Europe, and they are about to get worse. That is part of why other people across western Europe face a crisis less severe than we do.

Appealing to workers to tighten their already tight belts until independence (as some misguidedly do) will not work, for the simple reason that the vast majority of the Scottish people do not have the financial flexibility to do this.

We are in for a tough ride in the coming months, that is for sure. In this situation it is right and proper that trade unionists should press the Scottish Government to do all it can with its present powers – and to do so with concrete proposals, not just criticism.