When he announced his Budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced an almighty challenge, needing to not only continue the life-support that Her Majesty’s Treasury has been providing to the British economy since the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, but also laying the foundations for Britain’s long-term economic recovery and development (or ‘building back better’, as the Prime Minister likes to say).
Whether it be the extension by six months of the critical furlough scheme that has saved so many businesses and jobs or the continued uplift in Universal Credit, which has helped so many poorer families keep their heads above water during difficult times, this Budget has delivered for normal, working families.
But other measures also show that the Chancellor is thinking about the long-term.
The new ‘Super-deduction’ in corporation tax will mean that British companies are more incentivised than ever before to invest in new machinery and new methods, promising improvements in productivity and wages for all of us.
These will be further boosted by a new British Infrastructure Bank which the government is founding, which will fund new high-tech, green projects right across the country.
Furthermore, the designation of eight new freeports across England will ‘turbocharge’ investment into these areas, which will no longer be subject to customs duties. This last policy is a devolved matter, but hopefully the administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff will follow suit soon. But the absence of freeports north of the border does not mean that Scotland will not gain from the Chancellor’s budget: in fact, £1.2bn in additional funding will come up from London, due in part to the Barnett formula but also because Scots will continue to benefit from UK-wide schemes.
Thousands of Scottish businesses and hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers will benefit from the extension of the furlough scheme and the Universal Credit uplift. More specifically, Scotland’s brilliant Scotch whisky industry will be saved from further increases in duty, after the Chancellor found enough money to prevent it, while the Scottish government will receive additional money to ensure every Scottish adult receives a Covid vaccination by the end of July.
Commenting, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Midlothian South candidate Shona Haslam said: “Rishi Sunak’s Budget is one that delivers huge benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Midlothian.
“At every turn during the pandemic, the UK Government has stepped up to protect jobs and livelihoods in Midlothian. The Chancellor’s Budget confirms yet again that he will be supporting everyone that needs it as we continue to fight the pandemic, and then rebuild our communities.
“With the extension of the furlough scheme and further support for the self-employed, individuals and businesses know that the UK Government is continuing to help them. And with the creation of recovery loans, the continuation of a freeze in fuel duty and on scotch whisky, Rishi Sunak has taken the specific needs of Scotland and the communities in Midlothian directly into account.
“When you also see an extension of the uplift in Universal Credit, you can see the benefits of the Scottish Conservatives working constructively with the Chancellor.
“With a further £1.2 billion given to the SNP Government, it is now imperative on them to deliver additional funding to businesses as soon as possible. They should also look again their decision not to extend the holiday given to prospective homeowners, which Rishi Sunak has extended south of the border. We need to keep supporting our housing market as restrictions remain in place.
“Midlothian is a local authority which is facing unique financial pressures at this time and the Scottish Government need to step up and deliver a fair funding settlement for our council. As the fastest growing local authority in Scotland, we need the SNP to pass on some of these benefits to councils rather than the hoarding we have seen from the Scottish Government when it comes to Barnett consequentials.
“All too often businesses have been an afterthought in the SNP’S response to this pandemic. Rather than them focussing on another divisive and reckless independence referendum, the SNP should be fully focussing on rebuilding our economy and communities in Midlothian.”