Report reveals marginalised Scots hardest hit by tax & spending plans

By Graham Millar

Lone parents, black families and those with three or more children are the biggest financial losers as a result of the tax, spending and local services reforms, a new study has suggested.

With the UK Government’s commitment to the deficit reduction strategy, devolved governments have had to re-shuffle spending and taxation. The report, titled ‘The Cumulative Impact on Living Standards of Public Spending Changes’, and published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, shows how the Scottish Government’s decision to slash higher and further education budgets, as a means to cope with stricter targets, has caused this detrimental impact.

As a consequence of these cuts, those among some of the lowest household incomes are losing around £450 per year with richer households enduring an even higher loss. By 2022, it is estimated that spending on schools, higher education and further education will have reduced by between 30-50%.

The report also discloses how black households experience the largest overall spending cuts in cash terms, while white households lose less than other ethnic groups. In terms of their final income, lone parent households (predominantly female) are the most greatly impacted than any other demographic.

John Wilkes, Director of the Commission in Scotland, said:

“The findings show just how stark and unequal the combined impact of the recession, austerity and public spending cuts have been. Using this new approach to assessing the combined impact of tax and spend policy reveals that it is the most marginalised who have suffered the most.”

Compared to England and Wales, Scotland’s “pro-poor” policy has led to more positive results. There are various reasons for this, such as population growth – England has outgrown Scotland at a considerable rate – and different spending decisions.

The author of the report, Howard Reed, said:

“This research shows  that the combined impact of tax and social security reforms since 2010 has hit the poorest households in Scotland hardest.” He added, “The Scottish Government’s own spending choices have mitigated some – but not all – of the adverse consequences of the tax and social security decisions made by the UK Government in Westminster.”

The report calls for the Scottish Government to review its spending on the higher education and further education where the greatest cuts have taken place. It also recommends that the UK government should consider mitigating the vast negative changes to reduce disproportionate impacts on some groups in our society.

Theresa May begins five day debate

Theresa May will desperately bid to push through her Brexit deal this week

Theresa May has begun five days of debate over her Brexit deal in an attempt to sell it to MPs in Westminster in what is being called the ‘meaningful vote’.

The prime minister will spend eight hours per day fielding questions arguing that her Brexit deal delivers on her commitments to end free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. MPs are set to cast their final votes next Tuesday evening.

The Importance of the Deal

The future for Theresa May and the UK government are resting of the outcome of the vote. If MPs reject the deal, it is likely that there will be a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister and the current government. With 100 conservatives saying they intend to vote against the deal, the odds are currently stacked against Theresa May.
Opposition MPs have said that they would also trigger a second EU referendum if the deal collapses.

Dr Marc Geddes, lecturer in British politics from the University of Edinburgh, said that the majority of MPs are unsatisfied with the way that May is handling the deal: “the Brexit vote, we have been repeatedly told, was all about ‘taking back control’ and returning sovereignty to Parliament. For the government to then ignore the will of Parliament is why so many MPs are angry.”

Potential outcome

The outcome of the next few days of debate is uncertain. It is unlikely that Theresa May will gain the majority vote, but where will that leave parliament? Geddes believes that “it partly depends by how much May loses.

If it is a significant chunk of the House of Commons, then there are question marks over her authority as prime minister – though I think it is unlikely that she will either resign or be pushed out by losing the [majority vote] motion.” There are other possibilities, however. Article 50 could be extended, or perhaps there will be another Brexit referendum. There could also be a no-confidence vote in Theresa May or even a confidence vote in HM Government.

What will happen next?

At this stage, what will happen after the next five days of Theresa May’s debate and after the vote is cast next week is uncertain, but updates will come throughout today and we will keep you updated with the latest.

Click here to see news on the Brexit deal as it happens.

My low carb life

Avocado salad for lunch (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

In the famous words of Ziggy Stardust, “I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man just a mortal with potential of a superman. I’m living on.”

I have no idea what he was talking about, but over the last week, I have committed myself to eat a Keto diet; the one which is low carb and high fat. The very idea of cutting carbs from my diet made my stomach rumble, but I have forged ahead nonetheless.

I should explain a little of what ‘keto’ actually means. Keto is short for Ketogenic diet, where you reduce your carbohydrate intake to 10-15% of your calories and get the majority of your calories from fat. This puts your body into a state of Ketosis, where it starts to burn your body fat for fuel instead of converting carbs which are stored as fat. So you have to lower your carb intake but increase your protein and fat intake. That essentially means I have to stop eating chips, but I can eat loads of butter, cheese, eggs and meat.

Omelette - Dave Paul

Omelette, olives and cucumber meal. (Photo credit: Dave Paul)

From what I’ve been reading, the diet has many health benefits. There have been a lot of studies carried out that show that keto can actually help diabetes, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as giving you lot’s of energy. How can that be bad? It also apparently burns fat faster, and if I want that Christmas body I’ll have to move quickly. Here is how I got on:

Saturday – Day One

The first day was a shopping day. I made a trip to Waitrose because I like to think I’m middle class, and got myself a selection of low carb, high fat, protein-rich foods to eat; Italian meats, butter, cheese and more eggs than Michael Phelps. It seemed like a herculean task at first, but I found I actually had to buy LESS stuff as I was cutting out potatoes, pasta and rice which are basic food items. I then realised that all of my meals will be glorified ploughman’s for the next few months, and decided that there is definitely nothing wrong with that. Bring on the meat.

Sunday – Day Two

Off to a strong start. I made a low carb bread sandwich of mixed meats, pickles, piccalilli, cheese and salad leaves. I took a hit mid-afternoon when I realised that milk has carbohydrate in it. Damn you lactose, you natural milk sugar you. In fact, I found out that pretty much everything has carbohydrate in. Sugar is classed as carbohydrate. Everything has sugar in it. This is going to be harder than I thought.

My ‘builder’s tea’ isn’t the same without milk. And, no biscuit, no point.

Monday – Day Three

I can eat certain vegetables and still stay on keto, as long as I’m careful to choose low carb ones. Celery and spinach yes, carrots and parsnips no. I made a nice salad with meat, avocado, cheese and lettuce. I have decided that I cannot deprive myself of milk in tea and coffee. No milky Lattes though, a basic Americano with milk for me

Tuesday – Day Four

I have eggs for breakfast, again. As an ex-chef, I can’t help but turn out my omelette perfectly cooked and folded neatly onto my plate. I try not to think about the fact that I can’t have cereal, bread, bagels, rolls, toast, porridge, or French toast but I’m not focusing on what I can’t eat. It’s what I can eat that should be my focus. Mmmh, bacon. My breakfast usually keeps me full until dinner, but not today. No crisps. No chocolate. Unless it’s dark chocolate that has over 70% cocoa solids. Then I can have two squares, and still be low carb. I miss Dairy Milk already. Jerky to the rescue! I can eat lots of this, it’s 0% carbs, and I like to chew it like a cowboy as I play video games.
Sausages for dinner but with no mashed potato so I cook up pak choi and spinach and have it with a garlic and double cream sauce. Delicious.

This low carb thing is fine, why aren’t more people on this diet?

Wednesday – Day Five

I thought that lunch at university would be tough to keep low carb. Sandwiches, paninis, wraps; almost all convenience foods you buy have quite a high carbohydrate content in them, so I didn’t think I would be able to manage. To my pleasant surprise, the salad bar at the university is well stocked with low carb options. By avoiding the chickpeas and the jacket potatoes, but having extra cheese and olive oil, I had a lovely lunch and another omelette for dinner. I don’t know how Michael Phelps does it. I have a craving for salt and chilli chips though. Stay strong Dave.

Thursday – Day Six

Weirdly, this diet actually isn’t very difficult. Apart from the aforementioned not being able to get anything without carbs in it pretty much anywhere, you actually end up having to buy less food and saving yourself some money.

The other strange thing is that I am almost never hungry.

Something about not eating carbs that I thought was inevitable was constant hunger, but there was none! I have discovered how many things go with eggs, and being able to eat an entire packet of Italian cured meats and not feel bad about is incredibly liberating.

I think my face has lost some weight, I’m certainly looking thinner. Finally, a diet I can really stick to. I actually think I can finally lose some weight before Christmas and be happy at the same time. YES!

Friday – Day Seven

I got drunk and ate a Burrito at 2 am.

Saturday – Day Eight

The keto diet was fun while it lasted.

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