If one word could describe 2022, it would be ‘crisis’. We lived through a global pandemic only to be thrust into a cost of living crisis, a recession, and unprecedented political instability. Three Tory governments in one year, all guilty of mishandling our economy and creating the crises we’re now living through.
The answer from the latest Tory government is to return to the failed policy of austerity. The exact opposite of what economists say you should do during a recession. Austerity saw years of real terms cuts to the pay of our key workers, and now the UK government are playing the strong man with public sector staff, posties, and rail workers, claiming there is no money to pay them a decent wage.
It wasn’t so long ago we were all out clapping for the courageous efforts of key workers, but now we’re told by the Tories that their pay demands are unreasonable.
If there’s no money left, that is because of the Tories’ economic vandalism. Take the energy sector. Last year, Shell paid £3.7 billion in tax to Norway, yet here they received almost £100 million in net subsidies from the UK government. In fact, since 2016, BP and Shell have shared £700 million in UK subsidies. That’s our money being given to private companies to extract our oil and sell it to us.
Years of the UK government’s mismanagement of Scotland’s energy sector has left us as one of the only oil rich nations without an oil fund. Norway’s is worth £947 billion. Just think how that money could be used to ease the transition to renewable energy, and to support people through the cost of living crisis.
But it’s not just the Tories’ economic illiteracy that is costing us dearly. It’s also their spending profligacy. They spent £900,000 on painting the Prime Minister’s plane, almost doubled the UK government’s advertising budget to £930 million in preparation for the next General Election, and they wasted £120 million on a Festival of Brexit that hardly anyone noticed.
And while we’re talking of Brexit, that ludicrous policy alone cost us over £31 billion last year, crippling businesses and economic growth.
The next time the Tories tell us that there’s no money to pay people a decent wage, then we all know why.
In 2023, I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with workers, call the UK government out for its cruel benefit sanctions, push for more money and powers for the Scottish Government, and raise in parliament the issues that matter to you.
It is not inevitable that 2023 is again defined by crisis. It doesn’t have to be this way. Each of these crises are the results of political choices.
I hope you have a lovely Christmas and my best wishes for 2023.