MORAY politicians have reacted to the UK Government’s new “mini-budget”.
Moray MP Douglas Ross said a “raft of measures” would benefit the area, while Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said the budget’s tax-cutting measures were “robbing the poor to pay the rich”.
The new budget scraps April’s rise in national insurance contributions, changes the level of corporation tax businesses pay, scraps the cap on banker’s bonuses, abandons planned changes to alcohol duty and makes duty-free shopping easier for visitors.
Other key policies from the budget, including the scrapping of the top band of income tax, a reduction in the basic rate of income tax, uncapping banker’s bonuses and a fall in stamp duty, do not apply in Scotland.
Mr Ross welcomed the focus on scrapping taxes, and encouraged the Scottish Government to follow Westminster’s example.
He said: “The focus on driving up growth from the UK Government is extremely welcome as are there plans to accelerate tax cuts for those paying the basic rate of income tax.
“Those cuts now must be backed up by the SNP-Green Government.
“For too long ministers in Holyrood have allowed the tax gap to widen for those living in Moray compared to those south of the border and they cannot let that widen even further.
“They must also follow suit and raise the LBTT thresholds to £250,000 for homebuyers across Moray to give the local market a boost, otherwise this is another area where our local economy will lag behind.
“This is a positive plan for growth for people and businesses across Moray at a time when the country is facing a huge economic challenge and now it is over to the SNP-Green Government to match the UK Government’s ambition.”
However, Mr Lochhead said the UK Government’s tax cuts would most benefit the rich, and that this indicated the wrong attitude towards the UK’s problems.
Though the tax cuts are not taking place in Scotland, Holyrood has been given an increased block grant to implement similar measures should the Scottish Parliament should decide to.
He said: “The measures announced by the UK Chancellor will do very little to mitigate the Tory-made cost of living crisis and will provide little comfort to folk struggling here in Moray.
“The fact is that this Tory Government is robbing the poor to pay the rich, forcing ordinary taxpayers to foot the bill for multi-billion pound tax breaks for big businesses and the highest earners.
“It’s Robin Hood in reverse – taking billions of pounds away from working and middle class people, small businesses, and public services, and dishing it out to the richest people and biggest businesses in the country.
“A decade of Tory cuts and Brexit damage means the UK already has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north west Europe and that was before energy bills started soaring.
“Millions more households are set to be pushed into further hardship and this Tory government is clearly not on their side.
“We do not want nor need the cap lifted on bankers bonuses – we need to see urgent targeted support for low and middle income families and small businesses, all of whom are under enormous financial pressure right now.
“If this Tory government fails to bring that type of support forward the consequences for ordinary folk will be disastrous.”
Reacting to the impact the budget will have on Scotland, Mr Ross said the area could look forward to a bolstered whisky industry.
He said: “The Chancellor’s Plan for Growth featured a raft of positive measures which will bring significant benefits to people and businesses in Moray at this hugely challenging time.
“In particular, I will be raising a glass at his decision to cancel the planned rise in duty on Scotch Whisky.
“That is extremely welcome for such an important industry for Moray which provides so many jobs and will also help support hospitality businesses in this area as well.
“I’m also pleased the new Chancellor has listened to concerns from myself and others to reintroduce tax free shopping for visitors.
“I was the only MP in my party to vote against this measure when it was brought in early last year having listened extremely carefully to the concerns of major retailers in my constituency.
“Today’s announcement confirms I was right to take this position at the very start.
“Given these companies presence elsewhere in the United Kingdom, this is a major boost for them as we look to encourage visitors to shop across our country.”