Moray reaction to Rishi Sunak's autumn budget announcement, including the views of Douglas Ross and Richard Lochhead
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POLITICIANS and key stakeholders in Moray have reacted to the UK budget announcement from Rishi Sunak yesterday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak promised a £4.6 billion per year spending boost for Scotland as part of the budget, but Moray's SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said the announcement "fails Scotland".
Also announced in the budget were an increase to the national minimum wage – up for £9.50 an hour from £8.91, effective from April 2022 – a freeze on both alcohol and fuel duty and a 50 per cent cut in Air Passenger Duty for flights within the UK.
Mr Sunak also pledged to provide £1.9 billion for farmers and land managers and £42.2 million to support fisheries.
He said: “This is a budget for the whole of the UK.
“By providing record funding, the Scottish Government can tackle backlogs in the NHS and ensure people in Scotland get the support they need as we recover from the pandemic."
However, Moray's SNP MSP Richard Lochhead has said the budget is failing Scotland and that "independence is the only way to give Moray a fair recovery from the pandemic".
He said: “It's painfully clear that there will be no fair recovery from the pandemic under the UK Government’s plans.
“This Tory budget fails Scotland as a whole and doesn’t go anywhere near supporting people in Moray, who are being hit by an energy crisis, a Brexit crisis, a labour shortages crisis and an inflation crisis under Westminster control.
“Disappointingly, there’s no commitment to match the £500 million investment from the Scottish Government in a just transition fund for Moray and the North East of Scotland.
“One of the only bright spots was the decision to cancel plans to increase duty on Scotch whisky.
“It’s little wonder that the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for a different future in May. Independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts."
Moray's MP Douglas Ross welcomed the budget from Mr Sunak, which he believes will benefit Moray.
He added: “This is a budget that delivers for people here in Moray by focusing on protecting jobs, providing essential extra funding of £4.6 billion for public services in Scotland, and freezing fuel duty to help drivers across Moray and the whole country.
“It’s now crucial that the Scottish Government spend this record budget in the best way for our local communities.
“This budget is a major boost for the whisky industry which is so important here in Moray.
“The UK Government’s budget has ensured that distillers will benefit from a freeze in duty for the fifth budget in a row. This is something I work hard with the industry and treasury ministers every year to deliver, and I am delighted we have been successful again this year.
“It is another welcome boost following the UK Government striking a deal to suspend tariffs on whisky exports to the USA earlier this year.
“This is a major show of confidence from Rishi Sunak in the whisky industry and I will look closely at the forthcoming review of alcohol taxation which needs to address the antiquated system that has operated for far too long.”
The Scottish Whisky Association also welcomed the freeze on alcohol duty.
Chief executive of the SWA Karen Betts said: “By freezing duty, the chancellor has given welcome relief to all distillers, specifically in Scotland where 92 per cent of all UK spirits are produced or bottled.
"It’s confirmation that the UK government wants to support one of Scotland’s most important industries and will take action to protect jobs, investment and exports, and to bolster the recovery in hospitality and tourism.
“But the UK government must go further if it’s to meet its promise to ensure the tax system is supporting Scotch Whisky.
"Despite the duty freeze, spirits are still taxed more than beer, wine and cider and we will now want to scrutinise the reform proposals announced by the chancellor today.
"At first glance, it appears that Scotch Whisky will continue to be put at a competitive disadvantage against beer and cider through the tax system, rather being allowed to compete on a level playing field.”
Scottish Finance Minister Kate Forbes will announce the Scottish Government's draft budget on December 9.