NICOLA Sturgeon has issued a scathing response to the UK Government’s £45 billion tax-cutting announcements, branding the economic plan “incompetent and reckless”.
The First Minister reacted to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, which saw the Chancellor abolish the top rate of income tax for the highest earners in England and scrap bankers’ bonus caps.
Kwarteng brought forward the planned cut to the basic rate of income tax to 19p in the pound a year early to April and reduced stamp duty for homebuyers.
From April, the 629,000 earners in England getting more than £150,000 a year will no longer pay the top income tax rate of 45% and will instead pay the 40% applicable to those on over £50,271.
He argued his economic vision will “turn the vicious cycle of stagnation into a virtuous cycle of growth”.
Scotland’s First Minister said: “The super wealthy laughing all the way to the actual bank (tho I suspect many of them will also be appalled by the moral bankruptcy of the Tories) while increasing numbers of the rest relying on food banks - all thanks to the incompetence and recklessness of this failed UK gov.”
She went on: "A UK gov ‘budget’ that benefits wealthiest over poor/middle income earners, tanks the £, pushes up the cost of (v substantial) borrowing, and is castigated as reckless. And yet Tories (& right wing commentators) will demand that @scotgov blindly follows suit. Mmm…"
Other key policies announced on Friday included:
– Cuts to stamp duty in England meaning the exemption level was immediately doubled from £125,000 to £250,000 while the exemption for first-time buyers increased from £300,000 to £425,000.
– The introduction of VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors.
– Legislation to force trade unions to put pay offers to a member vote so strikes can only be called once negotiations have fully broken down.
– Confirmation of plans to make around 120,000 more people on Universal Credit take active steps to seek more and better-paid work, or face having their benefits reduced.
Charities echoed Sturgeon's sentiments, expressing concern over the UK Government's priorities.
Peter Kelly, the director of the Poverty Alliance, said the proposals will do nothing to help those who need the most support.
"The Chancellor’s statement, with its tax cut for the wealthiest, makes clear where his priorities lie. Instead of ending the benefit cap, he scrapped the cap on bankers bonuses," he noted.
"Those on the highest incomes will get even more; those in low paid part-time jobs will be expected to work harder just to stay afloat. His priorities are the wrong ones, and fail to reflect the values of justice and compassion that are at the heart of our society. This mini budget will do nothing for the people who need help the most."
And the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said the announcement was “more about bankers’ bonuses than helping hungry kids”.
Chief executive Alison Garnham said the four million UK children living in poverty will have to pay the price.
“In the short term benefits must rise with inflation as soon as possible, the benefit cap must be scrapped, and deductions paused to help families get through winter," she said.
“And sooner rather than later Government must grapple with the fact that our social security system is there for a reason – and investing in it is the best way to keep kids and their parents out of poverty.”