And that means continuing to take firm and responsible action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. To bring stability, strengthen the foundations for economic growth and deliver first-class public services.
Achieving those objectives are right at the heart of the UK Government’s Autumn Statement, a financial package which will deliver across the UK and bring billions more in public spending to Scotland. As Secretary of State for Scotland, I am confident our Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has announced a plan which will support the Scottish people through the challenges ahead.
It is also an Autumn Statement that will grip inflation, encourage the drive to net zero and support a major Scottish transport infrastructure project. I am pleased that the Chancellor’s statement included an extra £1.5 billion for the Scottish Government over the next two years as result of tax and spending decisions south of the Border, including higher spending on health and education. This will be on top of the record £41 billion block grant the Scottish Government gets from the UK Treasury.
With Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine triggering an upsurge in energy prices and the economic pressures exerted by the pandemic, I am under no illusions about how important it is that the UK Government helps those most in need.
That’s why the Autumn Statement has targeted more than eight million households across the UK, who are on means-tested benefits, for extra support. They will receive a £900 payment with £300 to pensioners and £150 for people on disability benefits.
The National Living Wage will be increased by 9.7 per cent to £10.42 an hour, giving a full-time worker in Scotland a pay rise of over £1,600 a year, and it will also benefit 160,000 of the lowest paid workers. Working age benefits will rise by 10.1 per cent, boosting the finances of millions of the poorest people in the UK. Our promise to fulfil the pensions triple lock will be fulfilled, meaning pensioners will get an inflation-matching rise in the state pension and the pension credit.
The Autumn Statement also sets out a massive package to protect households from spiralling energy costs. Families will receive an average of £500 support throughout next year through our energy price guarantee. Typical energy bills will be capped at £2,500 this winter before the cap rises to £3,000. While households relying on off-grid energy will receive £200.
Just as the UK Government produced multi-billion-pound measures to save lives and livelihoods through our vaccination and furlough programmes during the pandemic, we will continue to support families across the country. Tackling inflation is crucial to our approach. Rising prices do the most damage to the pounds in our pockets. Inflation disrupts businesses and eats into pay cheques and savings.
Therefore, we have made tough decisions to sort this problem by reducing borrowing and taxing those who can afford to pay more. By getting inflation under control we will bring stability to the economy, encourage economic growth and secure the country’s long-term prosperity.
Hand-in-hand with that strategy will be the UK Government’s ambitious levelling up programme which has already achieved great success in Scotland. The impressive array of local Scottish projects funded by this investment will be added to in the near future with confirmation of at least £1.7 billion to be allocated across the UK for the second round of the Levelling Up Fund.
People in Scotland are already benefiting from more than £2 billion of direct investment from the UK Government. Much of that has been delivered though working with the Scottish Government through 12 growth deals.
We intend to develop that collaborative approach to upgrading the A75, deepening the road links between Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. I was delighted the Chancellor announced a feasibility study to make much-needed improvements to a long-neglected route and I hope the Scottish Government will work with us – because that is what people expect and want to see.
For a road that should be one of the UK’s main trade arteries, it is alarmingly sclerotic. The importance of improving it is underlined when it’s considered that 45 per cent of Northern Ireland’s internal trade with the UK goes through Scotland. By pressing ahead with this key part of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, we are emphasising the UK Government’s commitment to transforming transport links across the UK.
Similarly, Scotland will be at the forefront of the UK Government’s vision of making the UK the world’s next “Silicon Valley” by capitalising on our expertise in science and tech. With our superb universities and our hugely capable workforce, Scotland is ideally equipped to make the most of the industries of tomorrow.
Helping us on that journey was the Chancellor’s commitment to a 35 per cent funding increase for the UK’s nine Catapult Innovation Centres, including the Offshore Renewable Catapult in Glasgow. This £1.6 billion investment will support cutting-edge research and encourage the transition that converts bright ideas into commercial opportunities.
These centres are committed to clean energy and play a huge role in creating and growing renewables companies. Through such initiatives, the UK will enhance its reputation as a hotbed of energy, infrastructure and innovation.
The UK Government’s Autumn Statement provides the basis for safe-passage through the stormy waters ahead. We will tackle inflation head on and create a prosperous future based on growth and stability. I firmly believe that by working together as a United Kingdom, we are in a strong position not only to overcome economic turbulence but for us all to flourish.
Alister Jack is Conservative MP for Dumfries and Galloway and Secretary of State for Scotland