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Reaction to Kate Forbes’ Scottish Budget statement

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Business for Scotland chief executive Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes unveiled Scotland’s budget plans yesterday. Here are just some of the initial reactions:

Gordon MacIntyre Kemp, chief executive of Business for Scotland: ”This budget was announced amidst the most difficult times. The twin impacts on the economy and jobs of Covid-19 and Brexit, which have both been mismanaged by the Westminster government, means that the help announced for business and struggling industrial sectors by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will be doubly welcome.

”Extending non-domestic rates relief for three more months is a good start, as is the additional £3.8m support for the food and drink sector and investment in recovery for those hit by Brexit in particular.

”Renewable energy is Scotland’s future and we need to transition from our world leading oil and gas expertise to become a global centre for renewable energy.  The Green Jobs Workforce Academy will help boost the skills base we need to lead the fight against climate change.

”Finally, with so many people suffering through lockdown the investment in mental health and wellbeing projects is just as vital as any business support right now. We hope that the concept of wellbeing becomes more pervasive in the government’s economic thinking as well and will continue to push for a fully fledged economic wellbeing approach.

James Withers, chief executive,  Scottish Food & Drink: “Some really welcome and important news in the Scottish  Budget. A commitment to increased investment in our farming, fishing, food and drink sector. Amidst Brexit and  Covid turmoil, this will drive forward the @scotfooddrink partnership’s recovery plan.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie: “Despite what the finance secretary says, this budget does not pay for a green recovery. With the country facing the economic fallout of Brexit and climate breakdown, we will never build a green recovery by moving pennies here and there.

”Even before COVID, Scotland was on track to miss targets on child poverty and climate emissions. This budget simply doesn’t address that, and refuses to consider progressive taxation.

”This is the year a new American President will come to the climate summit in Glasgow with ambitious plans to invest in a low-carbon future and create jobs. Scotland needs to at least match that level of ambition if we want to be taken seriously.”

Recovery of our wellbeing is just as important as the economic recovery, with many employers investing in their own employee support programmes

Liz Cameron, chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce:   “SCC welcomes these important steps to support jobs, employment and training. We called for training academies and we are pleased to see the Cabinet Secretary has acted on our recommendations, particularly the focus on green jobs.

“Business will welcome the mental health support as we understand the toll the pandemic has taken on our customers, employees and communities. Recovery of our wellbeing is just as important as the economic recovery, with many employers investing in their own employee support programmes. This commitment from the Scottish Government will enhance these efforts.”

Fraser of Allander Institute: ”Despite council tax and NDR cuts, the government chose not to meet its 2016 manifesto pledge to increase the tax exempt amount of income to £12,750. There are good reasons for that decision. The policy would cost around £80m, and would not be particularly well targeted at low earners.

The biggest surprise on tax came from the government’s announcement that rates relief for businesses in the tourism, retail and hospitality sector will be extended for the first three months of 2021/22. It was a surprise that the Scottish Government felt able to strike out on this course before the UK Government’s position had been confirmed. The policy is costly (£180m) and the UK Government decision, once it is confirmed, will unlock additional resources for the Scottish budget.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium: “The Finance Secretary has clearly listened to SRC’s concerns and responded positively to extend full business rates relief for retailers until the middle of this year. This provides vital breathing space as the industry hopefully emerges from lockdown.

“While the economic forecasts are sobering, there are other measures in the budget that retailers can get behind. Consumer spending is the mainstay of Scotland’s economy, and the decisions to protect ordinary taxpayers from rises in in income tax rates and to support consumers with a freeze in council tax are spot on.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association: “This is a strong budget and will certainly help support Scotland’s pubs and brewers through these unprecedented times. The business rates support in the form of a three-month cancellation will provide a degree of certainty for our members and help many businesses whilst the pandemic is still ongoing.

We urge the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the business rates holiday for pubs and brewers across the rest of the UK

“In order to ensure a strong recovery this needs to be further extended to the full year and it’s welcome that the Finance Secretary made clear that further support will be available dependent on the Chancellors budget in March.

“We therefore urge the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the business rates holiday for pubs and brewers across the rest of the UK. ”

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Willie Macleod: “The budget has brought some welcome, albeit short-term, relief for the hospitality sector. It provides a platform upon which we can build if we get the correct support from the Chancellor.

”The Chancellor now needs to recognise that ongoing support is still needed; both for the extension of the Strategic Framework Business Fund and to enable businesses to survive the crisis before trading their way back to growth. Extending the VAT cut for another year is a must.

Claire Mack, chief executive, Scottish Renewables:  “The budget is a significant step forward not just for our industry – which will require a large number of skilled employees as we work towards our net-zero target – but also for all those people whose careers are not compatible with net-zero.

“Along with other initiatives already underway, the Green Jobs Workforce Academy has the potential to help provide the skills Scotland will desperately need if it is to contribute to the global fight against climate change and capture the social and economic benefits of doing so.”

NFUS president Andrew McCornick: “In our pre-budget briefing to Scottish government, we called on it to play its part in funding existing schemes to provide stability and continuity.  That investment now will deliver for a green recovery in the rural economy, the national economy, jobs, the environment, biodiversity, climate change and our national wellbeing post-Covid.

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