Nicola Sturgeon: No ‘good gloss’ to be put on Chancellor’s autumn statement

Nicola Sturgeon has said there is “no good gloss” that can be put on the Chancellor’s autumn statement.

Speaking on the Peston show on Thursday evening, the First Minister said the Tories had started with a “massive black hole” that was “largely created by their own incompetence” but said Jeremy Hunt’s approach to the statement was “better than what we might have seen from some Tories in the past”.

“That is a lot of spin to try to cover up I think a really, really grim situation. You know, we are seeing a tax rises, spending cuts, budgets being eroded by inflation, household incomes over the next two years are projected to reduce in real terms by 7%, the UK in recession, so I’m not sure there is any good gloss that can be put on the announcements that the Chancellor had to make today.”

Ms Sturgeon was then asked if the Scottish government would follow suit with tax increases.

Mr Hunt announced £25 billion in increases by reducing the threshold for the 45% rate of income tax from £150,000 to £125,100 and giving local authorities the go-ahead to increase council tax.

The First Minister did not rule out any tax increases and said the Scottish government will “take time” to look at the options ahead of the Scottish budget in mid-December and put forward a “progressive approach” designed to “protect public services” as much as possible.

“I only have to cast my mind back a couple of months to the clamour that I faced when Kwasi Kwarteng, of course then chancellor, did his mini-budget and the demand was for the Scottish budget then to replicate these tax changes,” she added.

“Thank goodness we didn’t do that then. So I think it is right and proper that we take time to consider our budget in its totality and come to balanced and responsible decisions.”

She also argued Scotland was put in a precarious economic position because of decisions being made by the UK government and would fare better with independence.

“Scotland as part of the UK is vulnerable. So much of what we are dealing with right now, from Brexit through to the chaos of recent months and the grim economic reality now and in prospect for the next few years, is happening to Scotland because we’re not independent and we haven’t been able to stop these things happening,” she said.

“So independence is not a magic cure-all but for goodness sakes, Scotland should not allow itself to be in this position of being told that it’s somehow trapped by the incompetence of UK government and the weakness of UK finances.”

Meanwhile, parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland Malcolm Offord said the UK government had “stabilised the economy”.

The Scottish Government will receive an additional £1.5 billion for public services.

He said: “The UK economy has not been growing over the last 15 years by more than about one and a half percent and so we haven’t been in a high-growth environment.

“We’ve now got the global pressures that all of us have seen, all the G7 countries are subject to, and we’ve obviously had the pressure of the most recent events.

“And so for what we have to do now is stabilise the economy, get our house in order, get our books balanced and go for growth.”