Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Naw-sterity

Today, a British finance minister whose government was utterly rejected by Scots at a general election two months ago imposed a budget upon us of Dickensian proportions. 

George Osborne has launched a brutal attack on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and will destroy a generation. 

He has abolished Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds. This means that an 18-year-old, working full-time on a minimum wage contract will not be able to apply for Housing Benefit. An 18-year-old suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a stepfather will be forced to stay under the same roof as him, or be homeless. 

Osborne has also viciously attacked the "overbreeding" of the working class, and has decided, apparently at random, that working class people will be restricted to two children. Any more children, and child benefit will be withheld. For a family with one child, this is a tax on twins.

For those working in the public sector, the news is grimmer yet. For the remainder of this parliament, they will be restricted to just a 1% pay rise. With a cost of living crisis and many full-time workers unable to afford to heat their homes, this is a disaster for millions of people. Westminster MPs, incidentally, are to have an 11% pay rise.

It's the young who bear the brunt of the first full-frontal Tory attack budget since 1996, though. Student grants for low-income families: abolished. Tuition fees: raised. But £50.000.000 has been found to fund the British Army going into schools and enticing children into the armed forces.

The working poor didn't get off either. With no real-terms rise in the minimum wage, many rely on tax credits. These have now been abolished, to fund a cut in the amount of corporation tax paid by big businesses - many of whom don't bother paying tax anyway - to 18% (substantially less than the 20% paid by nurses and teachers). £9bn in tax credits cut.

Oh, and the annual overall amount Scots can claim in social solidarity payments has been slashed to just £20.000 - regardless of individual need. And they'll never see the vast majority of that cash as it goes directly to wealthy landlords. 

Universal Credit for those in work is to be slashed as well, and the rate at which a household's credit is slashed as they earn incrementally more is to be increased. All working-age benefits are to be frozen (in real terms, cut) for four years.  Most people who receive working-age benefits are actually in work, just underpaid. 

The total cuts to those who are most disadvantaged totals £12.000.000.000 per annum. This helps to pay for very rich people to have their inheritance tax cut. 

For disabled people who are medically unfit to work, they are to suffer a £30 per week cut. In terms of the overall budget it achieves almost nothing. But what it does do is send that message home to our most vulnerable citizens: "you're a burden. You cost too much. You're not worth it". 

It is a budget which deliberately sets out to savage the poorest in society and make us pay for enticements and inducements for big business and the rich. 

We were warned in September last year that if we were young, poor, old or ill, we would be gambling our very lives in that ballot booth. 

I hope No voters are proud today. They are the anvil upon which George Osborne has just hammered Scotland's poorest and most vulnerable people. 

George Osborne delivered today's budget. He doesn't have a mandate to do this to Scotland. But No voters, Scottish Labour and the Liberals gave him that mandate. 

Thanks, guys.


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