RESPONDING to Budget 2016 delivered by Chancellor George Osborne MP, Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) chief executive, Ross Martin, said:
“Budget 2016 takes place as the global economy slows and concern about weak productivity is increasingly shared internationally.
“As the Scottish Parliament takes on new powers from next year, it will become ever more important that the UK and Scottish governments develop a common economic platform to tackle these issues in Scotland – a process which SCDI will be encouraging as the First Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland jointly appear at our forum later this week.
“The transformational potential of digital technologies is essential to increasing productivity in businesses and public services, and we welcome the support for the emerging digital economy in the Budget and the national infrastructure priority for 5G roll-out.
“However, we still have not-spots and poor signals in too many areas and on our transport networks with 2G and 3G, and SCDI is pressing for the UK and Scottish governments and other partners to work together to introduce innovative solutions now.
“We welcome the opening of negotiations for the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal bid and anticipate a positive announcement for Inverness and the Highlands in the near future.
“But we need transformational inclusive growth in all parts of the country, so SCDI believes that the UK and Scottish governments should also now work together with regions outwith Scotland’s city regions to develop collaborative approaches to driving productivity – starting with the proposed Ayrshire Growth Deal.
“The reduction in the Supplementary Charge and effective abolition of Petroleum Revenue Tax are further steps in the right direction and a key long-term signal to the oil and gas industry about the Government’s commitment to maximising economic recovery, but, with companies currently losing money, will have limited short-term effectiveness.
“The additional funding for seismic surveys is welcome which, particularly in the context of the support for innovation announced as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, will help the industry with the challenges and opportunities of operating in a mature basin.
“The confirmation of future funding for offshore wind – albeit the budget is tight and there is a gap before it will be available – and support for innovation in energy, particularly storage, are welcome as far as they go.
“It will be important that the offshore wind industry can reduce its costs to maximise the projects that this allocation can deliver and that further developments are supported in Scotland, to take advantage of our resources and grow a Scottish supply chain.
“We welcome the commitment to HS3 for the Northern Powerhouse. Should the announcement next week of the plans for HS2 between the North of England and Central Scotland confirm a journey time of three hours of less between both Edinburgh and Glasgow and London, this will mean a transformation of connectivity for the North and Scotland, driving productivity and underpinning a rebalancing of the UK economy.
“The reforms to business rates in England have implications for Scotland’s competitiveness. Three-yearly revaluations will improve their responsiveness to economic conditions, while raising the threshold for the rates supplement for larger businesses contrasts with the recent increase in rates for larger businesses in Scotland.
“The Scottish Government will shortly announce details of its review of local business taxation and this should be fundamental, including the overall revenue raised.
“Weak export performance is a major drag on economic growth, but support for internationalisation of the economy did not feature significantly in this Budget – other than the benefits of UK membership of the EU to trade and the risks of Brexit, points with which SCDI fully agrees.
“The freeze on excise duty for Scotch whisky, one of our key exporters, maintains rather than builds on the progress made in recent years, and we would hope that it can be resumed next year.”
Notes to editors:
SCDI (Scottish Council for Development & Industry) is Scotland’s leading independent economic development organisation working across the public, private and social economy sectors, representing 1,200 organisations including global corporate companies, SMEs, public sector bodies and educational institutions, professional associations and trade unions, faith groups, charitable and social economy sector organisations.
The SCDI Blueprint Report, ‘From Fragile to Agile’, can be accessed at this link:
For further information, please contact:
Gareth Williams, director of Policy, SCDI
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