Holyrood Week

THE independence referendum took a back seat, for a day, as it was eyes down at Westminster for the Budget.

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A full house packed into the Commons to hear the Chancellor continue his assault on public services and the welfare state, while adding insult to injury with his beer and bingo tax cuts for working people.

I'm sure he imagined thousands throwing their cloth caps in the air in celebration during impromptu knees ups at Butlins camps around the country.

It was a Budget for savers, Mr Osborne announced, as he extended the tax free limit on ISAs from £5500 to £15,000 a year.

Because George said savers have had a "particularly hard time in recent years".

That's brilliant news for those who can afford to save in a year what many people earn. It's less good for the many more living on around £15,000 a year.

For the low paid it was an extra £500 before you have to pay tax, taking the threshold to £10,500, but somehow he managed to say this was saving people £800 a year.

I'm still trying to figure that one out. No wonder the economy is in a mess.

We got another glimpse of what the Chancellor thinks of the public sector.

HE said he would not "squander the gains" so cuts will continue year after year and into the next parliament.

"All decisions are paid for" he said "taxes are lower but so too is spending".

Public sector pensions would be reformed and pay restraint would continue.

Crystal clear then, public sector workers through their pay, pensions and jobs are paying for tax free savings for the better off.

To do otherwise would be to "squander the gains".

Then we got to gambling and recognition of the "proliferation" of fixed odds betting terminals raking in millions for the big betting shop chains.

It has been a growing concern they are targeting poorer communities, making profit from desperation and adding to the financial and social problems in deprived areas.

George however, saw pound signs and noted it was "highly lucrative" so it was "right that we increase the tax on them" - no mention of the associated problems or uneven distribution of machines towards poorer areas.

Then we had the big build up to the beer and bingo announcements, like a trader at the Barras.

He wasn't cutting the bingo tax from 20% to 15% no he was cutting it to 10%.

He wasn't going to freeze beer duty, he was going to cut it by a penny.

Hurrah, you could almost hear them shout down the Old Dog and Duck House. How about tax relief on dookits too, George?

It was the bingo and beer budget all right. More losers than winners and it was bitter.

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