There has been a predictably mixed response in the Borders to George Osborne’s budget speech in the House of Commons.
Borders Lib Dem MP Michael Moore and Conservative MSP John Lamont are both confident it will reward hard-working Borderers, pensioners and farmers alike through increased personal tax allowance, investment in broadband, a freeze on fuel duty and allowing farmers to submit an average income over a five year period for tax purposes.
‘Low and middle income Borderers will be over £900 better off’Michael Moore
Scottish Government Deputy Minister John Swinney, however, believes the Chancellor’s continued pursuit of austerity will continue to impact on public services, infrastructure and support for the most vulnerable in society.
Andy Willox, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scottish policy convenor, said: “There’s no doubt that this was a pre-election budget, but it contained some important practical measures.
“No matter who triumphs in May, they’ll need to tap the potential of the UK’s small businesses to realise their ambitions.”
“Borderers will receive a further tax cut with the increase of the personal tax allowance to £11,000 next April,” said Mr Moore.
“Raising the tax free part of people’s incomes to £11,000 will mean low and middle income Borderers will be over £900 better off by the end of this Parliament compared to 2010. This will make a tangible difference to stretched family budgets across the region.
“I have been campaigning for better broadband in the Borders for many years so it is great to see a commitment to broadband speeds of 5mbps in rural areas and I will work hard to ensure that the Borders is at the front of the queue for this investment.
MSP John Lamont added: “New measures such as a relaxation of the rules around pensions, a further freeze on fuel duty and the introduction of new tax rules for farmers show that this Government is on the side of hard working families.”
“The Conservative led Government’s long term economic plan is achieving results, with unemployment in the Scottish Borders at its lowest levels since 2008.”
Speaking on behalf of the region’s many small businesses, Andy Wilcox, FSB, said: “We’re urging governments in London and Edinburgh to ensure that more devolution doesn’t result in more admin for small businesses.
“The Scottish Government should also modernise taxes currently devolved and pass the collection of business rates and council tax to Revenue Scotland.
“Lastly, ministers in Edinburgh should commit to a business rates review run in parallel to the one launched by the Chancellor. Most of the criticisms levelled at the English regime are equally applicable north of the border.”
John Swinney would have liked the Chancellor to go further to help the North Sea oil and gas sector.
“If we are to believe the Chancellor that the economy is making such a successful recovery, then there is no justification for the destructive cuts that impact on the most vulnerable in society,” said Mr Swinney. “That tells you everything you need to know about the values and priorities of this Chancellor.
“Measures to safeguard the North Sea are a step in the right direction for our oil and gas sector. The Scottish Government has been calling for such measures, along with the industry, for some time.
“It has taken the Chancellor four years to admit the tax rise he implemented in 2011 was a mistake. A heavy price has been paid for this mismanagement.
“I cautiously welcome the U-turn by the UK Government to take action on the future of the North Sea. We will study the proposals in detail. It is now essential that work is focused on boosting investment and growth in the North Sea sector.”