Scotland

Autumn Statement: Shovel at the ready

  • 5 December 2012
  • From the section Scotland
George Osborne in the Commons
Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement in the Commons

It is, apparently, still autumn. This thought will undoubtedly console Scots commuters as they dig out their cars from the snow tomorrow or dust down their wellies for the trudge to the bus stop.

Officially, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness persists until December 20, the equinox. I can only say of such officials that they have plainly never experienced December in Braemar.

Still, autumn it is - and hence the Chancellor has just delivered his Autumn Statement. Much of the tenor was in keeping with the actual prevailing climate rather than the notional season.

Growth down, debt target missed, an extra year of austerity. Still, George Osborne contrived to deliver his statement with a degree of chutzpah and theatre which provoked more than the occasional cheer from his back benches.

The British economy, he insisted, was healing. It was just taking rather longer. Some, he said, had been calling for the fuel duty increase to be postponed. Dramatic pause. It was to be scrapped altogether.

Capital spending

At Westminster and Holyrood, the customary blend of mixed reaction. Tories and Liberal Democrats talked up the scheduled reductions in the annual deficit - together with the cut in corporation tax and moves to take the lowest paid out of income tax.

Labour excoriated those missed targets and argued that the poor were being made to pay for problems that were not of their creation.

Understandably, John Swinney, the SNP Finance Secretary, was directly interested in the new resources available to Scotland - a net £331m over two years made up of £394m more in capital moderated by a cut in revenue.

The capital expenditure was welcome, he said. Very welcome. He had his shovel at the ready to give the go-ahead to infrastructure projects.

Just a pity, he added, that his advice to advance such projects had not been heeded at an earlier stage.