THE BLOG

Between Using the Powers of the Scottish Parliament and Making Cuts to Our Children's Future, We Must Choose to Use Our Powers

02/02/2016 08:37 GMT | Updated 02/02/2017 10:12 GMT

The most important investment any government can make is in our people, and particularly our young people.

I want to see the children in classrooms across Scotland not just have the education and skills they need to get on in life, but be the best equipped workforce on the planet to excel in the industries of the future and get the jobs of tomorrow.

That's why the Scottish budget as it stands is completely unacceptable. It will harm the poorest families in Scotland and rob our country of opportunity for decades to come.

The SNP Government in Edinburgh are making hundreds of millions of pounds in cuts to services. This will impact on jobs, the services all families rely on, but worst of all on our children's schools.

The SNP have refused to protect spending on schools and education, despite having done so for the NHS and police budgets.

The First Minister said closing the gap between the richest and the rest was her number one priority, but you can't cut the gap between the richest and the rest when you cut the schools budget.

The SNP also plan to cut the Education and Lifelong Learning budget by more than £130 million (4.4%) in real terms next year.

Scotland's schools cannot take another round of cuts. Local schools budgets have already been cut by the SNP. Teacher numbers are at a ten year low. Since the SNP announced these cuts councils are already planning cuts to education.

Cuts to education aren't just cuts to our children's future; they are cuts to the future prosperity of Scotland. But it doesn't need to be like this. We can break from Tory austerity, reject the SNP's cuts and make a different choice.

The whole point of devolution was about being able to do things differently. In Scotland we don't have to accept Tory austerity - we can reject it, protect education and build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

The Scottish budget gets its first reading in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow. Today I'm setting out a different plan.

The Scottish budget should set a new rate of Scottish Income Tax at 11p - 1p higher than the rate set by George Osborne and John Swinney.

This will raise close to half a billion pounds for additional public spending, more than enough to halt these cuts to education and invest in the future of our country.

We know that for low income families the last thing they need is additional costs. That's why under our plan people earning less than £20,000 a year won't pay a single penny more, and low paid taxpayers will actually benefit with a £100 payment.

That means that one in four workers will pay no more than today, with one in five taxpayers actually gaining from this policy.

Politics is about choices. Given the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament or making cuts to our children's future, our nation's future, we choose to use our powers.

In the budget tomorrow, I hope the SNP see sense and join us.

Kezia Dugdale is the Scottish Labour leader and MSP for Lothian