Reacting to the Scottish Government’s Budget for 2023/24, Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said:
“At a time of public finance pressure, these relatively small tax tweaks are certainly welcome and will raise some much-needed additional revenue to support public services in Scotland next year, which we know people on low incomes rely on most.
“With so many people facing desperate financial circumstances, including many of those who care for someone, the anti-poverty case for using devolved tax powers to raise more revenue from April is overwhelming.
“By matching the UK Government’s cut in the Top rate threshold, and adding a penny to both the Higher and Top rates, John Swinney has made the common-sense choice to ask those on higher incomes in Scotland to contribute a bit more to support public services and a fairer Scotland.
“But with the richest households 223 times wealthier than those with the least, these tax changes barely scratch the surface.
“To deliver Scotland’s National Outcomes and the Scottish Government’s vision for a stronger, fairer, and greener Scotland, it must firmly grasp the thistle of tax reform and today’s Budget did nothing to kick-start that badly needed process.
“While increased spending at UK level has cushioned the impact of inflation on the Scottish Budget next year, that won’t last and the Scottish Government must urgently reform devolved taxes, including to shift the focus to taxing wealth and to making polluters pay.
“Local authorities could use Council Tax to raise more funds next year, but unless any changes make it more progressive and protect those on the lowest incomes, this could make life even more difficult for people who have the least. Reform is shamefully overdue.
“If we’re to reduce poverty, invest in care, cut inequality, and confront the climate crisis, the Scottish Government must replace its timid approach to tax with one that recognises the transformative role it must play in delivering on these key national priorities.”
On tackling poverty, including investing in care
“The decisions to uprate social security entitlements in line with inflation from April and to extend the Fuel Insecurity Fund into next year will offer some comfort to those facing the injustice of poverty, as well as to the growing number of people on the brink of it.
“But unpaid carers worrying about how to keep their loved ones warm and single parents unable to buy enough food may, rightly, be left asking whether the level of support coming down the line can compete with the scale of their financial challenges.
“While recent increases in the Scottish Child Payment are welcome, merely maintaining it at £25 per week will mean that inflation will reduce its value in real-terms. At the same time, the budget set aside for the Scottish Welfare Fund next year is static, despite an increase in the number of people facing income crisis.
“The small budget increase for the Carers Allowance Supplement is unlikely to do enough to relieve the severe financial pressures facing many of those who look after someone unpaid. Meanwhile, the extra cash to support payment of the Real Living Wage for social care workers will do little to make these highly-skilled workers, the vast majority of whom are women, feel more valued.”
On addressing the climate crisis
“Scotland must end the climate charade that small increases in funding will be enough to deliver our climate ambitions.
“Only last week, the UK Committee on Climate Change bluntly warned that progress in cutting Scotland’s emissions has “largely stalled” and that the legal emissions reduction targets are “in danger of becoming meaningless”.
“While it is positive to see more money to support the transition to greener transport, such as the trial suspension of peak fares and more money for active travel, as well as the shift to low-carbon heating, there was an urgent need to rapidly accelerate investment in climate action. We’re simply not seeing investment at the scale that’s needed.
“All the talk of a ‘just transition’ will ring hollow for those who will face even deeper consequences if Scotland continues to insufficiently invest to reduce our emissions fast enough. To change course, we need to see much greater willingness to make polluters pay for their damage.”
For more information, please contact: Natalie Terry, Media and Communications Advisor, Oxfam Scotland, firstname.lastname@example.org, (+44) 7906 139 293.
Notes to Editors
- The National Outcomes are the 11 goals set out by the Scottish Government within the National Performance Framework which it says “describe the kind of Scotland it aims to create”: https://nationalperformance.gov.scot/what-it
- UK Committee on Climate Change: Scotland’s climate targets are in danger of becoming meaningless (7 December 2022): https://www.theccc.org.uk/2022/12/07/scotlands-climate-targets-are-in-danger-of-becoming-meaningless/
- Wealth inequality data via Scottish Government, Wealth in Scotland 2006-2020 (Feb 2022): https://data.gov.scot/wealth/#Wealth_inequality
- Data on the financial challenges facing unpaid carers via Carers Scotland: https://www.carersuk.org/scotland/policy/policy-library/stateofcaringscotland2022
- Data on the financial challenges facing single parents via One Parent Families Scotland: https://opfs.org.uk/get-involved/news-and-events/news/lwal-report/
- On public attitudes to tax (31 Oct 2022): Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021 – 2022