The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement a fortnight ago was a wolf in sheep's clothing and it is going to bite very hard in Scotland.

Yes, there was talk of trying to protect those on low incomes. The Minimum Wage, pensions and Universal Credit are to rise, broadly in line with the type of inflation that hits those on lower incomes, albeit from too low a base. However, let’s not fall for the spin. These scraps from the table are the bare minimum that should be expected.

Jeremy Hunt’s National Insurance cut was possible due to an unexpected windfall from the continuation of Chancellor Sunak’s 2022 income tax threshold freeze. Even then, for almost all workers, the two pence in the pound reduction in National Insurance is more than overtaken by the aforementioned threshold freeze. Then of course we have the cost of housing. Rents continue to sky-rocket, and, with average mortgage payments alone increasing by £2600, the Chancellor is frankly deluded if he thinks a £450 cut in National Insurance will touch the sides.

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We are living through a grotesque period in which we are witnessing the largest reduction in living standards since records began. This isn’t hyperbole. This isn’t bombastic, trade unionist columnist outcry; this is information drawn from the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Far from robbing Peter to pay Paul, the Tories are robbing both Peter and Paul in front of our eyes and then having the audacity to blame the sick and unemployed rather than their own financial mismanagement.

As such, the return of the heinous workfare programmes was a particularly galling announcement; a systemic, brutalised form of government welfare policing that demonises and sanctions those who, in their hour of need, turn to the state for support. We know fine well that sanctions don’t work. They only serve to stigmatise and disenfranchise.

That’s why it sticks in the craw so much that instead of targeting the real wealth accumulators in this country - the FTSE 500 bosses, the conglomerates who avoid tax and the billionaires - the Chancellor has directed his fire towards those with the least.

It’s typical that, as we approach an election, the Tories attempt to gaslight the nation into thinking it’s those on welfare who are to blame for economic turbulence, not the Tories themselves.

A statement that prioritised those with wealth over those on welfare. A fiscal programme that promoted the economic growth of those at the top whilst deliberately painting a target on the back of those in our society who need our help the most. If we can be real for a second, it takes an especially pernicious government to target those with mobility or mental health issues, painting them as a drain on the public purse, whilst conveniently forgetting it was Liz Truss’s mini-Budget that spooked the markets, almost caused a run on the pound and can account for the economic hardship being inflicted on our communities across the country.

It's not the sick or the infirm who are responsible for public finances being in a ruinous state - it’s Tory Government ministers.

Over the past few months alone the Tory UK Government has thrown its net zero plans onto the pyre whilst the planet burns; presented a legislative agenda within the King’s Speech that’s so flimsy it could be wrapped up by Christmas and, in a stunning turn of desperation, brought back David Cameron - now Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton - to try and revive a party that is slowly marching towards, hopefully, electoral oblivion.

The Herald: Shona Robison must reactShona Robison must react (Image: Getty)

The wolves are most certainly at the door for this government.

Even this is not the full story. The Chancellor is forecasting year-upon-year cuts to public spending. It’s austerity 2.0 with potentially even worse consequences. Local authorities in England, even the Tory shires, are moving towards rebellion. It may be a threat rather than a promise, but there is talk of handing back town hall keys to Westminster, such is the desperation born of an inability to deliver core services.

The knock-on effect for Scotland will be severe. As Shona Robison gears up for a crucial Scottish budget, real-term cuts to UK departments threaten negative impacts on the devolved public sector.

The Autumn Statement’s promise of £545 million of Barnett consequentials for Scotland in 2023/24/25 may sound like a lot but it is anything but. The resources are already earmarked and the projection is for further year-on-year pain until 2029.

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Cue Scottish Government pronouncements of shrinking the public sector workforce and undefined talk of public sector efficiency savings. Overworked and underpaid public service workers have heard all of this before. It normally amounts to top-down target-led job losses with genuine efficiency being the last thing on the minds of public sector managers.

Still, at least to a degree, the Scottish Government can choose a different path and that’s why, to avert a full-scale public services crisis, the Finance Secretary must leave no stone unturned as the Scottish Budget approaches. Last year we set out how bold, radical plans on taxation could net the coffers in Scotland over £3.3 billion in extra revenue, over £1bn of which could be realised in the next financial year. Our case is that those on the highest incomes in Scotland should be paying their fair share. We argue for the wholesale replacement of the council tax and the introduction of wealth taxes on land, income and multiple properties.

Within the powers of our parliament, limited though they may be, Scotland simply does not have to pass on cuts from the Westminster government onwards to our communities. And those in the business community who are clamouring for the finance secretary to pivot yet more relief in their direction would do well to consider the importance of core public services to the operation of their businesses.

It falls to the Scottish Government to step up for Scotland. Devolution was never meant to be the last line of defence against Tory Government. It was meant to be the empowerment of our nation. The finance secretary can do so this month and set out an economic prospectus that puts fairness, dignity and, crucially, sustained funding back into our communities and our public services.

Roz Foyer is General Secretary of the STUC