DESPITE this being my penultimate column before Christmas and as people begin to gear up for the festive season, there is no sign of Parliament slowing down anytime soon.

Over the last few weeks, Westminster has been dominated by high-profile political events, including the King’s Speech, a ceasefire vote and the return of David Cameron. This week is another significant one. 

Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt will be rising to his feet in the House of Commons chamber to deliver his highly anticipated Autumn Statement – addressing the state of the economy and outlining the UK Government’s tax and spending decisions before the main budget in March 2024. 

This will be Jeremy Hunt’s second budget since coming into his post, as he attempts to mop up the financial mess left by his immediate predecessor, whose economic mismanagement saw a run on pensions and caused mortgage prices to soar.

As we creep closer to a General Election, the spending decisions the UK Government chooses to take are all the more pertinent, especially as people are faced with unprecedented levels of hardship. Whether it’s eye-watering energy bills, excessive food costs or soaring mortgage bills, there is no doubt this cost-of-living catastrophe has been delivered by Westminster.

The SNP have a plan to ease the household squeeze, but Westminster is holding the power. We want to see the return of the £400 energy bill rebate, the introduction of mortgage interest tax relief and caps on soaring food prices, similar to what has been done in France.

Instead, today the Tories will prioritise tax cuts for the few at the expense of the many. This out-of-touch Conservative government has all the wrong priorities.

At a time when vulnerable families across our city are going cold and hungry, the debate should not be dominated by cuts to inheritance tax for the wealthy.

The test today is clear – this budget is about our values as a society. Who should be prioritised during a cost-of-living crisis? For me, it’s about protecting the most vulnerable and getting ordinary families through tough economic times.

But, also, what of the Labour Party? As Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves descend further into their Tory tribute act, people in Scotland have to watch on aghast as the Westminster Two slug it out in a desperate scramble for the votes of English market towns.

There is however an alternative – it’s with independence and a Scottish Government, elected by us, making decisions about who to prioritise during a budget.

I can safely say that a Scottish Government with the full economic levers would not be countenancing tax cuts for millionaires. However, for as long as we are governed by Westminster then that’s the gruel we’ll continue to be served.

And in the meantime at Westminster, the SNP will continue to be the voice of reason, the voice of fairness and the voice of Scotland.