JUST before the Chancellor stood up to deliver his Autumn Statement, my SNP colleague Kirsty Blackman raised an important issue at Prime Minister’s Questions. She asked the PM how she could sleep at night knowing that her government’s policies are making an increasing number of people homeless. The stark reply from the Prime Minister was that austerity was about us living within our means.

Just moments later, the Chancellor delivered his Autumn Statement, where he made it clear that the UK is not living within its means. The figures were bad enough but adding in the impact of Brexit, we see that economic growth will be slower, inflation will be higher, as will national borrowing and debt. The UK’s debt will rise to more than 90 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2017-18 – hitting a 50-year high.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast this represents a £220 billion increase in national debt by the end of this parliament. Total national debt will equate to more than £1.9 trillion by the end of this parliament. So much for the claims from Better Together that Scotland couldn’t afford to be independent: with these figures it seems Scotland can’t afford not to be independent.

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Although the Chancellor said that Scotland would benefit by more than £800 million from his Autumn Statement, the reality was slightly different. This money is for capital spend (on infrastructure projects) and is spread over the next five years. Even then it is only a fraction of the cuts that the Tories have already made to Scotland’s budget. In the ten-year period to 2019-20, the UK Government will have cut Scotland’s budget by about £2.9bn in real terms. In other words, the £800m is only a partial reduction on the cuts the Tories have already made to Scotland’s budget.

The austerity policies so dogmatically followed by the Tories are hurting those most in need while doing nothing to help the economy.

Austerity is a political decision, not an economic one.

The Autumn Statement delivers little for those struggling to get by. The fake “living wage” promoted by the Tories will be increased but still falls massively short of the real living wage – the one researched and decided by experts at the Living Wage Foundation. Even then the extra from this doesn’t offset the cuts already made to tax credits and other benefits. Hammering the poor to fill the gaps in the UK’s economy was never going to work.

The Chancellor missed a chance to tackle the real issues within the economy. Why not do something about the missing billions of tax revenue from businesses? Independent research estimated this could be as high as £120bn per year; can you imagine what a difference that would make to the economy?

The Tory austerity agenda and living within our means mantra only applies to certain people.

There is plenty of money for new nuclear weapons yet little for public services like the NHS. Businesses will see corporation tax cuts yet those relying on working tax credits – making up for the poor wages their employers pay – see more restrictions and cuts. Those on benefits are having to jump through hoops to get the money they need to survive or face punitive sanctions.

One of the main problems of the sanctions regime is the uneven and unequal way it is delivered. Depending on which benefit office you visit, which person served you and any other number of factors, those claiming benefits may or may not be sanctioned, irrespective of the impact it has on the claimant and their family. My private members’ bill, if passed, would result in guidelines that benefits staff would have to follow. As well as making the sanctions regime clearer it would also provide safeguards, such as ensuring that no claimant or their family face destitution as a result of any sanctions. It is obscene that this has to be written into law in 21st-century Britain. At the last count more than 7,000 people had responded to the consultation on my bill, which will be discussed in parliament on Friday, December 2.

Often those on benefits rely on charities to support them and their families. Maybe even charities like the BBC’s Children in Need, which held its annual fundraiser only last week. The UK Government’s priorities were highlighted on the very same day as Children in Need was trying to raise money to support children in poverty, when the Chancellor announced he was giving £369m to the Queen to pay for repairs and the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. No worries for one of the country’s richest families about the bedroom tax, no questioning how their palace became so run-down, just a simple: “Yes Ma’am, the cheque’s in the post.”

Similarly, this Government baulks at the cost of repairing the damage done to pensions for women born in the 1950s – even though independent research commissioned by the SNP showed that £8bn could go a long way to solving this issue. The Tories aren’t going to help the women badly affected by this. But when the Houses of Parliament need at least £7bn to be refurbished that’s no problem for the Tories, out comes the Chancellor’s cheque book again.

The simple fact is that funding is available to provide a better standard of living for more people but this isn’t a priority for the Tory Government. They are throwing money at nuclear weapons, ignoring business tax fraud and, of course, the Royal Family only have to ask and the money is made available for their palace to be repaired.