The UK Budget dominated the political news this week and perhaps predictably, a row broke out quickly over the impact of the UK government’s Budget on Scotland. Hammond’s latest set of tax and spending plans included a freeze on oil industry taxes, and an extra £950m for the Scottish Government over three years.
However, his Scottish counterpart Derek Mackay said the UK government had made a choice not to end austerity and had “short-changed Scotland”. Philip Hammond used his Budget – the last before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 – to claim that “the era of austerity is finally coming to an end”. Other measures announced which will have a significant impact in Scotland include: £150m for the Tay City Deal and negotiations for a Moray growth deal, headline tax rates on the oil and gas industry maintained, and £10m-UK-wide for fisheries technology. Scottish Government statement: SG Budget reaction
As we reach the end of the week, Scottish ministers are being challenged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie to continue with income tax reforms while delivering a Scottish Budget that’s distinct from what they term ’the Chancellor’s list of tax cut giveaways for the wealthy.’ Questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Finance at Holyrood, the MSP for Glasgow also said that Greens will continue to pressure the government for new financial powers to be devolved to councils.
Back to Brexit and Holyrood’s constitution committee has called on Scottish and UK ministers to resolve the “impasse” over devolution and consent “as a matter of urgency”. A new report from the group said MSPs should not give their consent to the UK Trade Bill while the dispute continues. The Scottish Government is angry that the EU Withdrawal Act passed despite MSPs refusing to give it their backing, and they have resolved not to put any more Brexit bills forward for votes at Holyrood until the row is resolved.
Over in Tayside and Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, is challenging the UK Government to match his funding commitment for the Tay Cities Region Deal. The Scottish Government is planning to invest £200 million to deliver inclusive economic growth across the region, through skills, tourism and innovation. Over the next 10-15 years, the funding will secure significant numbers of both high value and entry-level jobs by supporting projects across the themes of skills, tourism, transport and innovation.
Finally, the Enterprise, Energy and Fair Committee launched an attack on Scottish Enterprise for spending just £500,000 of a £10 million fund for growth businesses. The Committee also recommended an Audit Scotland performance audit of Scottish Enterprise’s claim it generates between £6 and £9 GVA for every pound that it spends.
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