UK Budget – afterthoughts

On Monday at Westminster we had the UK Budget. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, spoke for just over an hour laying out his financial vision for the United Kingdom. The red book goes into more detail and is available immediately after he concludes speaking. Along with the red book there are a number of other conventions that accompany the budget. The speaker does not attend, instead the deputy speaker is in charge. The speaking order is always, Chancellor, Leader of the opposition, Chair of the finance committee, third party leader. During these speeches interventions are not sought. The latter convention was lost on the Scottish Tories and some of their more senior backbenchers who harangued Ian Blackford MP throughout his speech. Normally one would expect the Tory party whips to be moving among the green benches explaining the process and maintaining party discipline. They were noticeably absent on this occasion. It’s not the first time that an SNP speaker has been disrespected in the House of Commons and I am sure it won’t be the last. In a place that prides itself in its capacity for deference and civility it is extraordinary that it can have such a lack of self awareness when its wants to. But the lack of respect shown to the SNP is nothing compared to the appalling attitude that successive U.K. Governments have shown to the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign. Since 1997 Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, Conservative and now Conservative propped up by DUP, have ignored the plight of these woman fighting against state pension inequality. Their protest in the public chamber was born out of understandable frustration and anger. Yet another budget and yet again they are dismissed by the financial mandarins. I was pleased to hear from the Chancellor that the U.K. Government would be moving away from the ruinous PFI schemes that Labours Gordon Brown inflicted on us. It’s good to see the U.K. Government follow the SNP Scottish Government’s lead after we changed the finance model in 2007. And in that vein it was also good to hear that business rates would be reduced, another SNP Scottish government initiative. The Tories may make great play of not listening to the SNP in the House of Commons but even they occasionally recognise good policy when they see it. If only they could see the error of their ways in rolling out the flawed Universal Credit scheme. Another budget comes and goes. A few shiny baubles have been produced and a few back benchers placated but the big picture remains one of Brexit chaos and a Conservative party at war with itself. They shout at the SNP opposition at Westminster and the SNP government at Holyrood but the real anger and bitterness, the true vitriol and venom is reserved for their own inner party career defining battles and that does not serve any of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom well.

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