Borrowing data in the UK shows debt rising ever upwards

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Morning View

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In Newry yesterday, the finance ministers of the three devolved regions – Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – met ahead of a meeting in Whitehall next week.

Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir was joined by the SNP’s Derek Mackay and the Labour finance minister in Wales, Mark Drakeford.

The trio is planning to ask the chief secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, to ease austerity in the aftermath of Brexit.

Mr O Muilleoir said that he will be “saying very firmly to [Mr Gauke]” that there needs to be “a real injection of capital stimulus into all the economies”.

No doubt Mr Gauke will politely listen to the demand.

But there was a disappointing financial development yesterday in UK public finances, when borrowing for September was £2 billion higher than expected at £10.6 billion.

There is often talk of “austerity” and cruel Tory cuts and so on, particularly by spendthrift political parties such as Sinn Fein and the SNP. But yesterday’s financial data merely underlines the fact that the UK is not even cutting its debt.

There has, since Labour was ejected from office in 2010, been some success in cutting the deficit, but that merely means that British indebtedness is rising at a slower pace.

Overall debt is still heading ever upwards. The Office for National Statistics has said that public sector net debt rose to £1,627 billion last month, which is 83% of GDP. The prospect of a debt level of 100% of GDP gets ever closer.

It makes sense for Scotland, Wales and NI to stay in close contact and to work together at times, given the fact that all three countries are on the edge of the UK and all three will have their own specific issues to resolve from Brexit.

It is not unreasonable either to pitch for funding to help with specific outlays. But politicians both local and national need to be mindful also of the spiralling debt that, if it is not one day brought under control, will mean that we bequeath indebtedness to future generations, rather than opportunity.