Mixed reaction to rescue package

UK chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak’s post-coronavirus lockdown rescue package for the British economy has met with a mixed reaction among politicians in the Borders.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 10th July 2020, 12:28 pm
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street to unveil a mini-budget to help kickstart the UK economy. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street to unveil a mini-budget to help kickstart the UK economy. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Fellow Conservatives John Lamont and Rachael Hamilton have welcomed his summer economic update, but Labour’s Colin Smyth was less impressed.

Among the measures announced by Mr Sunak are a £1000-per-head incentive for employers to bring back furloughed staff, six-month VAT cut of 15 per cent for the hospitality industry, half-price vouchers for eating out next month and subsidised employment scheme for young people aged 16 to 24.

That bid to reboot an economy ravaged by almost four months of lockdown has been given the thumbs-up Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk by Mr Lamont.

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The MP said: “The chancellor said at the start of this crisis that he will do everything he can to protect jobs. This plan will protect as many jobs as possible in the Borders.

“The new kickstart scheme will help young people across Great Britain gain vital training and work experience while ensuring they get a wage.

“Unfortunately, young people are usually the hardest hit during an economic crisis. This should go some way to avoiding that.

“The VAT cut will be especially welcome here in the Borders where large parts of the economy rely on tourism, with day-trippers and tourists visiting our restaurants and local attractions.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Ms Hamilton agreed, saying: “This is a historic intervention from the UK Government.

“The tourism and hospitality industry have been given a lifeline to protect jobs and livelihoods and save businesses.

“I am delighted that young people too can have confidence that more opportunities for work will be stimulated by the £2bn kickstart scheme for 16-24-year-olds.

“The chancellor has risen to the occasion and has set Britain on course for recovery.”

However, South Scotland list MSP Mr Smyth is unconvinced by Mr Sunak’s efforts, saying: “Massive intervention was needed by the chancellor due to the slowness of government to tackle a health crisis which has turned into an economic crisis, but, sadly, what has been announced falls short of what was needed.

“The proposals announced will simply not scratch the surface of the economic tsunami that is battering the area.

“We didn’t get the back-to-work budget needed, and I suspect the chancellor will be forced to come back in a few weeks to announce more action as the economy goes into a deep recession.

“The decision not to extend the furlough scheme for sectors such as tourism and hospitality, and others that won’t need staff to fully return for some time, is a massive and real blow to this area.

“That decision will mean there will be more redundancies as the scheme begins to be reduced and is ultimately ended in October.

“The furlough scheme should have been extended for some sectors until next year, but instead we will now see many companies lay people off, adding to an already record high level of unemployment.

“There are also gaps in grant schemes for businesses, and many have lost out locally.

“That’s why I’ll continue to put pressure on both the Scottish and UK Governments and their agencies to bring forward new grant schemes, including a dedicated south of Scotland scheme to allow local flexibility in how that is allocated.”