Greenock Telegraph 13th March 2020

On the surface the budget was all about where the UK government plans to splash money, it is light on where that money will come from and what the expenditure will achieve. It doesn’t address the pressing issues that people face in our communities day in day out. We face the immediate uncertainty from COVID-19 but there is no indication of what funding Scotland will receive from the announcements that money will be made available! I expect the full consequential from this additional funding to ensure the Scottish Government can respond effectively. The Tories plan to end E.U. friction-free trade, and potentially impose new tariffs, which will pose a threat to Scottish jobs, living standards, public services and the economy. Tory plans to end freedom of movement could see Scotland’s working age population plunged into decline. This will only be worsened by their plans to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge to £624. I was pleased to see the UK Government take action on the tampon and reading tax following sustained pressure from SNP MPs Alison Thewliss and Patricia Gibson, however some of the government’s more abhorrent policies remain. The tax credits 2-child cap and rape clause need to be scrapped. It is appalling that at least 510 woman have been forced to disclose they were raped to receive benefits. This budget fails to go far enough for workers, the cut to employers’ National Insurance falls short of the Conservatives manifesto pledge to cut national insurance up to £12,000 this budget has only taken it to £9,500. And when it claims to be green budget it falls far short. The delay of the National Infrastructure Commission shows the Tories have no plans to achieve net zero, despite Scotland’s ambition relying on U.K. reserved policy action. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is providing £1.8 billion of investment this includes £220 million of seed funding for the Scottish National Investment Bank. £64 million is being invested to support the commitment to plant 12,000 hectares of forestry, with the aim to reach 15,000 hectares by the mid-2020s. This Budget was a lost opportunity, big on promises, small on detail and not designed to address the issues that affect our society most today.