THE past year has been defined by economic turmoil, due to war in Ukraine, surging inflation and the adverse impact of Brexit.

Four Chancellors of the Exchequer and three Prime Ministers in four months led to paralysis and unprecedented instability at Westminster as the Tories imploded.

Richard Hughes, chair of the UK Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) concluded that that three successive and short-lived Tory Governments have cost taxpayers an additional £40 billion of debt with a series of dramatic swings in policy.

The scale of this colossal and avoidable burden on the taxpayer is equivalent to £600 for every man, woman and child across the whole UK.

Interest payments each year on UK Government debt now costs each of us £2,000 per year.

This is increasing as interest rates rise and the economy is mired in recession.

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Households and businesses will continue to pay the price for the UK Government’s chronic economic incompetence, with the OBR forecasting that average household disposable incomes will fall 7.1 per cent by 2023-24.

This will be particularly felt by those on low incomes, serving to widen inequalities further with the biggest drop in living standards on record and the worst of any advanced economy.

Against this background the SNP Government delivered its Draft Budget 2023-24 for those responsibilities devolved to Scotland, last Thursday.

Unlike UK budgets which are announced like rabbits out of a hat, Scottish budgets are scrutinised and deliberated over by MSPs before being agreed in early February.

The SNP Government has set three priorities; eradication of child poverty, providing sustainable public services and transforming the economy to deliver a just transition to net zero.

Parents of 387,000 children now receive the Scottish Child Payment of £25 per week - available nowhere else in the UK.

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While £428 million will be invested to raise all other devolved benefits next April by 10.1 per cent.

The NHS and social care budget will increase by £1,117.7 million, local government by £415.3 million and the net zero portfolio by £235.6 million.

Police Scotland’s budget rises by £81 million and Education by £94 million.

As Scotland’s budget is set against a backdrop of the UK cutting our funding by 10.8 per cent since 2020-21, the income taxes between £43,663 and £125,140 income tax will rise from 41p to 42p in the pound. Earnings higher than that will see tax rates increase from 46p to 47p.

However, the majority of Scottish taxpayers will continue to pay less income tax than if they lived elsewhere in the UK.

At national and local level, the SNP in government will continue to do all it can within its limited powers to help people cope through this cost of living crisis and protect essential services.

So much more could be done for people and communities across Scotland with the full powers and resources of independence. We can no longer afford to leave the prosperity of our nation and our people at the mercy of Westminster mismanagement.

The full draft Scottish Budget can be read at: