UK Austerity Agenda Was Underlying Reason Behind Brexit Vote, Says Sturgeon

The UK Government's austerity agenda was one of the underlying reasons for the vote to leave the EU, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will suggest in a major speech on Monday.

Ms Sturgeon will use her address in Sheffield to set out her own alternative economic policy and urge the Chancellor to back inclusive growth and invest in public services.

The speech comes as a court ruling on triggering Brexit talks threatens to derail the UK Government's plans, and as Philip Hammond prepares to deliver his Autumn Statement later this month.

Mr Hammond has already abandoned his predecessor George Osborne's plan to eliminate the deficit and achieve a surplus by 2020, and has indicated he will prioritise investment in infrastructure and housing through borrowing.

Speaking to an audience of 1,200 at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, Ms Sturgeon will say that the vote for Brexit was also a vote against austerity.

The First Minister, who has called for the UK to retain its membership of the single market, is expected to say: "We need to demonstrate that being open to free trade and free movement isn't just good for the economy as a whole.

"It benefits individuals and communities too. It creates, rather than curtails new opportunities for everyone. And it can lead to a society which is more prosperous, more inclusive, and more cohesive.''

She is expected to add: "Austerity has already caused huge social harm and brought no economic benefit - it has failed, categorically and comprehensively, on its own terms.

"We know that people on low incomes were more likely to vote to leave the European Union, as were areas with low employment rates. UK economic policy has just not given enough people, enough grounds for hope.

"While the UK Government may have abandoned its original debt reduction target, the pain for working people is set still continue - the Resolution Foundation estimates working families on low incomes will be worse off in the years ahead as a direct result of both austerity and Brexit.

"So the Chancellor of the Exchequer needs to change course in his Autumn Statement in a fortnight to invest in the economy and support public services, offering hope for the future rather than playing on the fears of the present.''

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