ECONOMIC austerity is a key factor in increasing numbers of people now dying younger.  

In less than a decade, an estimated 350,000 excess deaths across the UK have been directly linked to Tory cuts to public services and welfare benefits.  

A 2022 report from Glasgow’s own Centre For Population Health found that here in the city, death rates in our most deprived communities rose because of UK Government policies. The political choices of successive Tory ministers to cut the social security incomes of the poorest and most vulnerable while slashing the resources to fund vital frontline services have been catastrophic.

The next UK Government has a clear political choice to make: either change tack or plough on. Disastrously for so many in our communities, all the indications are that austerity will continue regardless of who is in Number 10 on July 5.

With what looks like an unassailable lead in the polls, Labour have had countless opportunities to commit to policies to protect and support citizens against the effects of 14 years of austerity, Brexit and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Instead, they have signed up to the same fiscal policies as the Tories.

When it comes to potential further spending cuts that will hit the NHS, schools, housing and social security, Sir Keir Starmer is on a remarkably similar page to Rishi Sunak and the four Tory prime ministers before him.

Even as the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies warns of spending cuts of £18 billion within a few years, Sir Keir refuses to come clean on the reality of Labour’s fiscal plans.

But his claims that his party will stick to tough spending rules with “no tax surprises” translates to more of the same.

Many in Labour seem to be a bit upset about the SNP asking hard questions of them and Starmer as well as the Tories. The reality is that barring the mother of all turnarounds, Sir Keir will be the next Prime Minister. It’s entirely appropriate for the SNP to demand honesty about what the next UK Government plans to do on austerity and inequality. Furthermore, that only the SNP are raising genuine concerns on public spending cuts speaks volumes in itself.    

More encouraging has been the campaign by COSLA, which represents Scotland’s councils, joining with its counterparts south of the border to call for fair funding from whoever forms the next UK Government. The stakes for local services have never been higher.  

A leading think tank has warned that unless there’s a change to funding, half of England’s councils will go bust over the lifetime of the next parliament. Many in Scotland, already struggling to balance the books, will be pushed to breaking point by further Westminster spending cuts.

Demanding more resource for Scotland’s public services in a UK General Election isn’t about grievance, nor deflection nor an admission that our devolved services are failing. Instead, it acknowledges that our finances are determined by the UK Government. Cuts to public spending in England mean cuts in Scotland.  

As Starmer’s lieutenant Wes Streeting now famously said about UK-wide NHS funding: “All roads lead back to Westminster.” I agree.

That’s why I want assurances that our most vulnerable won’t be left without a safety net, that the next Government will be committed to improving funding for housing, food security, welfare and health. We simply cannot afford the disastrous impacts that a further squeeze on public spending and extension of austerity will bring for far too many Glaswegians.  

Like the vast majority of people across Scotland, I’ll celebrate the end of the most callous, dysfunctional and ideologically driven UK Government in living memory.

But right now, the change Labour say they will bring won’t be anything as big as the change we need. Glaswegians will neither forget nor forgive that.