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Chancellor needs to go further with his austerity measures

FOLLOWING Iain Macwhirter's article ("A bleak statement: We live in a very harsh Britain", the Herald, December 6), Doug Maughan, Alistair MacLeod and Foster Evans (Letters, December 7) clearly hope that next year's reduction in the real value of working age benefits, presaged in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, marks a distinct change in the political weather.

I agree.

Hitherto, George Osborne has spectacularly failed to achieve his aims stated on taking office in 2010: to remove the structural budget deficit and to stop the growth in the National Debt, both within the duration of the current Parliament.

He has been spending more and borrowing more. In fact, he has been testing Labour's Plan B to destruction, as Ed Balls uncomfortably realised in his abysmal performance in the Commons debate on the Autumn Statement. It is hard to think of any precedent for an economy running such a huge deficit in peacetime successfully spending its way back to fiscal sustainability. Not even those favourite poster-boys of the left, Sweden and Canada, managed it in the 1990s. Most countries can just expect to go bust in the process. But Mr Osborne's new budget plans do not go far enough. He should have frozen working-age benefits and spending on the NHS and education; he should have chopped foreign aid and the billions devoted to subsidising wasteful green energy; he should have begun a withdrawal from the grotesque Common Agricultural Policy. He would then have had some leeway for tax cuts to kick-start consumption and so create the conditions for industry to spend some of its cash mountain of £750 billion on capital investment.

Nevertheless, the Chancellor has shown that there is no alternative to austerity, which, in my view, will continue for at least 10 years until feckless households get their finances under control. The voters are getting used to it, and the more accepting of it they grow, the better Conservative electoral prospects will become. Why vote for the other lot who might make things even worse?

It is forgotten that Labour and SNP socialism has prospered historically as long as economic growth made possible their redistribution schemes to the poor, while also permitting growing real after-tax incomes for the middle classes. With zero growth, redistribution can be funded only by reducing the income of the middle classes. And such cuts would require a totalitarian state, which the middle classes would never vote for.

Because of this fundamental change in the economic background, Nicola Sturgeon's recent speech on independence was a catastrophic blunder ("Sturgeon: Unionists could help shape independence", The Herald, December 4). Calling on "British" Scots to support independence in order to build a socialist Scotland was akin to asking turkeys to vote for an early Christmas. Indeed the situation is worse for SNP socialism than it is for its Labour counterpart. As the Autumn Statement revealed, North Sea oil revenues are projected to fall by 37% over the next four years, to add to the 20% fall since 2010/2011 – the year of the most recent Government Expenditure and Revenues in Scotland report. These stark facts not only blow a hole in the SNP's spending plans, they will sink independence beyond salvaging.

Look out for a Conservative revival in Scotland at the Westminster and Holyrood elections of 2015.

Richard Mowbray,

14 Ancaster Drive, Glasgow.

DOUG Maughan accurately describes the misery which the Chancellor's Autumn Statement will visit on the less well-off through cuts in benefits (Letters, November 7).

However, we should not be surprised at the callousness illustrated by the hilarity shown by the Coalition frontbenchers during the debate. This is wholly in keeping with the second strand of their attack on the poor, which is to stigmatise welfare claimants as feckless and parasitical.

The result is that the public increasingly risks being conned into believing that the benefits system is too generous. In reality it supports people at a low and often miserable level, as it was not originally envisaged to support individuals and families in the longer term, but for short periods between jobs in a high employment economy.

It would be very interesting to see Prime Minister David Cameron, George Osborne and First Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander try to survive on £71 per week. They would not be laughing then.

Peter A Russell,

87 Munro Road, Jordanhill, Glasgow.

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Local government

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