THE SNP’s budget for Scotland is a mess. And let me be clear about it, that is the Tories’ fault. What is more, there is not a snowball in hell’s chance that voting in a Labour government would make any difference to that situation.

I am not here to defend the SNP. It’s not my job to do party politics in this column. It is, instead, my job to talk about the way the world is, as I see it, using my decades of political economic experience. So, let me relate what I am witnessing.

Throughout the period since the global financial crisis in 2008 Scotland has, overall, enjoyed the good fortune to have a government that has never accepted the need for economic austerity. The SNP have not been able to protect Scotland from all the consequences of the Tories’ threefold strategy. That has comprised lowering tax for the best off, increasing tax on those with the lowest pay, and delivering austerity in an attempt to undermine the credibility of all services provided by governments in the UK, whether national, devolved or local. However, to give the SNP their due, they have done their best. Now, though, they have run out of chances to help. In reality it has been starved of money, and there is no other option but cuts available.

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Let me be blunt. In this situation the SNP government in Holyrood is in much the same as the very large numbers of English councils, who now seem to be queuing up to declare bankruptcy. Most of those councils are also not to blame for their predicaments. Decent people from both leading political parties, desperately seeking to serve their communities by meeting the needs that they have a statutory duty to fulfil, are unable to do what the law is demanding of them right across England.

The SNP are in the same position. They have no real tax options open to them, because the devolution settlement stitched up Scotland in a manner that makes real fiscal responsibility in Holyrood an impossibility. The funds given to it by Westminster are inadequate to meet the needs of the people in Scotland. And the Scottish Government has no borrowing powers of any consequence. What that means is that when every trick, reserve and pocket of remaining funding has been used by the SNP, they have nowhere else to go, and it would seem that this moment has now arrived.

The National: First Minister Humza Yousaf speaking at COP28

It would be all too easy to blame the SNP, and their Green partners, for the austerity that is indisputably coming Scotland’s way. That, I suggest, would be wrong.

The Tories have created the budget crisis that Scotland now faces. Its published forecasts for the next five years promise that everything will get worse. Whilst they reward banks and big business with massive profit increases, they have refused to take the cost of living crisis seriously. Fuel remains horribly overpriced, most especially in Scotland. Mortgage costs and rents have risen by rates well above inflation. And downward pressure in wages has created stress everywhere.

None of this is by chance: It is all the deliberate result of a policy driven by the Bank of England that wants to drive the UK into recession in a totally misplaced belief that this is necessary to beat inflation. It would be absurd to blame the SNP for that.

The National: Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Critically though, please do not think that Labour will solve any of this. The only three things that Rachel Reeves, the Labour shadow chancellor, is promising is that they will:

  • Firstly, really let the Bank of England run UK economic policy;
  • Secondly, accept the dismal forecasts for the UK economy that the supposedly all-knowing Office for Budget Responsibility has recently endorsed, and
  • Thirdly, balance the Government’s books, which even the Tories are not saying they will do.

READ MORE: Scottish Budget: Shona Robison to deliver 'toughest ever' spending plan

One thing is certain from all this, which is that right now it looks likely that a Labour government led by Keir Starmer might be even worse for Scotland than the current, contemptible, Tory government.

So, what is there to do? First, this is a moment to be angry.

Second, do demand that the SNP focus that anger constructively.

Third, blame both the Tories and Labour for their utterly miserable failings.

And, fourth, get angry in the cause of independence because if Scotland really does want a very different form of government to the total mess that is currently on offer, that is the only viable option on the table.