It is a grim statistic to have to report, but sadly the SNP Government at Holyrood had to spend £2.4 million in Orkney to mitigate vindictive Tory UK Government policies in this financial year.
This leaves significantly less money to support hard-pressed Orkney families through the deepening Tory cost of living crisis.
Across Scotland, the range of Scottish Government spending commitments to counter negligent Westminster policies is now an astronomical £594 million annually. And that figure doesn’t include almost £3.5billion of social security benefits which, while devolved, are needed to support and supplement insufficient welfare benefits paid by the Westminster Tories.
Also not included is the recent £290m announcement by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to give hard-pressed households £150 each.
To protect islanders, the SNP Government is having to commit an estimated £2.4 million – a substantial amount from its restricted budget – to mitigate vindictive and immoral Tory policies inflicted on this community.
If these Tory policies – which bring misery to the country’s most vulnerable – did not exist, then it would free up Scottish Government cash to spend the equivalent of an extra £109 for every man, woman and child in Orkney to deal with the spiralling cost of living.
Devolution was meant to provide Scotland with the opportunity to do things differently but, with Westminster holding the key economic levers like borrowing, the Scottish Government is severely constrained. That opportunity is even further restricted if it is continually having to commit eye-watering amounts simply to right the wrongs of the Tories’ underhand austerity agenda at Westminster, which is targeted at ordinary folk across Scotland.
It says something about their priorities that, while they cut funding to help ordinary families and individuals, they pursue tax cuts for banks that will benefit them by £4bn at the expense of public spending.
Scotland’s opposition parties are constantly demanding the Scottish Government spends its limited budget on opposition priorities without ever identifying where the money is coming from. These millions of pounds for mitigation could be diverted to these areas if they were not being used to protect Scots from the worst elements of Westminster control.
And it’s not just the Tories to blame. The Lib Dems and Labour, through their support for Westminster control, perpetuate vindictive Tory governance on the people of Scotland. In 2014 those parties promised that Westminster would be better at tackling those problems for Scotland. The sad fact is that those promises of Westminster support were empty.
Almost £600 million is a vast amount. If the Tories would only properly fund the areas in which the SNP Scottish Government must spend to mitigate and protect people, jobs and businesses, this cash could be redirected to make transformational changes in other areas of Scottish life.
Sadly, the direction of travel of this Westminster government means things will only get worse. It is why the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose a different path with a post-pandemic independence referendum once the crisis has passed.
This is a regular column by Emma Roddick SNP MSP. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same in The Orkney News to share their personal views.