PRESS COMMENTS: SPRING UK BUDGET STATEMENT

(All quotes attributable to Martin Docherty-Hughes MP unless otherwise specified)

 

General Comment and BREXIT

“Brexit was the elephant in the room during the Budget statement, as the Chancellor barely mentioned the UK leaving the European Union, despite it being the biggest single threat to Scotland’s economy.
 
“The Tory Government remain wedded to austerity, which is driving the biggest inequality since Thatcher, I would highlight:

  • A lack of action on rising inflation, and slower wage growth which will squeeze living standards, which the IFS described as ‘dreadful.’ 
  • Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for.
  • The review of tax relief for the oil and gas industry is welcome but a failure to act now demonstrates an alarming lack of urgency.

 

 
“Forecast debt, deficit and borrowing levels have barely changed since last autumn, with little hope for any significant improvement.
 
“The Tories talk about helping working people, but their lack of action on rising inflation and slower wage growth means that already diminished living standards will continue to be squeezed.

 
“Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for, and now we face being taken out of the European Union despite the majority of people voting in Scotland to remain. The Chancellor failed to set out how he will mitigate the economic crisis Scotland and the UK as a whole is facing. 
 
“We welcome the Chancellor’s review of tax relief for the oil and gas industry but a failure to act now demonstrates an alarming lack of urgency.

“From the failure to safeguard the rights of EU citizens and inaction over business uncertainty, to ongoing under-investment and the need for a just transition to a low carbon economy, this budget will be remembered for what it missed out, rather than what it addressed.”

 

On the £350m Barnett Consequential Funding

“Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for. By comparison, the refurb of Buckingham Palace will cost an estimated £370m with the planned work on the Houses of Parliament costing upwards of £4 billion. The Scottish Government will make full and good use of this money, but £350m really is a drop in the ocean in the context of Tory Austerity measures.”


On the National Insurance Rise

“I am extremely concerned that this tax-hike will hit many hard working businesses in my constituency and across Scotland as a whole. 
 
“In recent weeks the Tories have been arguing for tax breaks for the wealthiest in Scotland, all the while storing up a tax hike on the self-employed, small business owners and planning to break their own manifesto commitments.

“The Tories arguments on taxation in Scotland have been completely destroyed. The SNP has protected incomes with a freeze in income tax rates while the Tories have just hiked up National Insurance without thinking through the consequences.

“Many self-employed people in Scotland do not earn large amounts of money, and have had to become self-employed in response to changing economic conditions; they do not benefit from paid sick leave, holiday pay or other benefits that employees have.

“Being self-employed is a risk they have had to take, and while they should rightly contribute to public services, I believe this change leaves them in a more precarious financial position.”

 

On 1950s Women’s Pensions

“The silence from the Chancellor on state pension inequality was deafening for WASPI women campaigning outside the House of Commons.
 
“The Chancellor had an opportunity to right this wrong and deliver measures that would give these women the pensions that they have rightfully earned; at every opportunity this Tory government fails to act.

“What the UK government must realise is that pensions are not a benefit, they are a contract, and this Budget should have shown the UK government living up to that contract.

“Delivering fair pensions is clearly not a UK government priority. With inflation spikes forecast, this budget was completely devoid of any mitigating measures to future-proof pensioner incomes. What we needed was a clear commitment to the triple lock beyond 2020 and action for the pension injustices WASPI women have suffered for too long.”

 

On the Review of Oil/Gas Taxation

SNP Energy Spokesperson, Callum McCaig MP said: 
 
“While any action is welcome, the Chancellor has moved at a glacial pace. The fact the Chancellor is just getting around to this now shows an alarming lack of urgency and a gives the industry a clear sense of where this Tory government’s priorities lie.
 
“Where was the Chancellor when thousands of oil and gas workers were facing redundancy, and why didn’t they listen to repeated and sustained calls from the SNP throughout this time for a more stable, competitive fiscal regime?
 
“Reform of decommissioning tax relief could mean that assets are in the hands of the companies best placed to boost production, but this is just one side of the coin – we still see no action from the UK government on boosting exploration, which is key to long term investment, revenue and crucially jobs in the North Sea. 
 
“The new panel must focus on boosting production in the here and now, and consider very carefully how best to maximise the tens of billions of barrels of reserves which remain in the North Sea. Extending the lifespan and revenue potential of the basin must be central to considerations here.
 
“Now that the Chancellor has announced his expert panel it must get to work, and fast. The UK government should set out the remit of the expert panel and the timescale for reporting its findings in early course. This Tory government cannot be allowed to stall yet again on supporting this vital industry.”