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COMMENT: SPRING FINANCIAL STATEMENT


The Government’s “Spring Statement”, basically a mini budget, was supposed to bolster their popularity but it has been roundly rejected by just about everyone. At a time when millions of people are facing severe hardship because of rocketing fuel bills, benefit cuts and low wages, the chancellor did virtually nothing to help. This is a government that refuses to believe it’s possible for somebody to have a job and still not be able to afford their household bills. Scotland produces more energy than we can use and has a world wide reputation for the quality of food we produce. These resources should be used to give everyone a decent standard of living, not to line the pockets of wealthy investors.


The SNP have called for a “windfall tax” on companies that quite fortuitously made massive profits during the pandemic. The media have tended to focus on the big oil companies but there are several others whose profits soared during lockdown or by being awarded lucrative (and possibly overpriced) government contracts. These are not profits made by good business decisions and it’s only right that a small share of them should be used to support the poorest and most vulnerable.


The National Audit Office has published an independent report into over £700 million in contracts awarded to Randox Laboratories Ltd for covid testing kits. They found that over half a billion pounds worth had been awarded with little or no competition. There was no evidence of any checks to see if the price they were paying was reasonable, and there were several meetings between Randox and government ministers that were not properly recorded. These contracts had previously come under scrutiny when a senior Tory MP was found guilty of gross misconduct after being paid to lobby the government on behalf of Randox. You may remember that instead of accepting the decision the Government ordered its MP to vote to overturn his suspension before being forced into a humiliating u-turn. The MP then resigned from Parliament.


Last week we marked the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack that saw four people killed and at least 50 injured on Westminster Bridge next to Parliament. The killer then stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death before being shot inside the grounds of Parliament. Keith was posthumously awarded the George Medal for his bravery. Nobody who works in or visits Parliament should ever forget that the police officers on duty will put their own lives on the line to protect any of us.


It was good to get the chance to speak to representatives from SGN (I still call them Scottish Gas) when they visited Parliament last week. SGN are behind the world leading pilot project to use hydrogen as a carbon free alternative to natural gas for domestic heating. The scheme based in Methil is making good progress and they still hope to have the first volunteers beginning the switch to hydrogen by the end of next year.


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