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Chancellor's measures 'step in right direction' but don't far enough to help local economy

By Gordon Calder

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THE measures announced this week by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are “a step in the right direction” but don’t go far enough to help the local economy.

That is the view of far north MP, Jamie Stone and the chief executive of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Trudy Morris.

Mr Stone, the Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross MP, said: “The tax cut for small businesses is welcome, but now it is down to the SNP Government to decide whether to replicate this or not.

“Though it is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go anywhere near undoing the damage this Government has inflicted on our local economies over the years. It was this Conservative Government that froze the VAT threshold in 2017, hitting small businesses the hardest at a time of high inflation.

“It was this Government that mismanaged the national economy by failing to fix business rates and letting high interest rates squeeze the balance sheets. It was this Government that made a mockery of the UK on the international stage by enabling Trussonomics and a Kami-Kwasi budget. It is difficult to restore business confidence after years of utter shambles.”

Jamie Stone said the UK Government needs to do more to tackle the cost-of-living crisis
Jamie Stone said the UK Government needs to do more to tackle the cost-of-living crisis

The Liberal Democrat MP added: “More work needs to be done for this Government to realise the real-life consequences of the cost of living crisis, which will only worsen as winter fast approaches once again. As it stands, it’s clear that the Government are totally out of touch and totally out of ideas.

“On healthcare, the problem is that whatever money is given to the Scottish Government by the UK Government is to be spent at the whim of the SNP Government in Holyrood. This does not bode well for my constituents, who have long suffered the consequences of centralisation of vital health services; the downgrading of Caithness’ women’s health services to name but one of many prominent examples.”

Mr Stone welcomed the continue freeze on whisky duty. “Whisky is one of Scotland’s most important exports and provides vital employment in remote areas,” he said.

Trudy Morris said many of the announcements in the Autumn Statement are devolved matters for Scotland. “Businesses in the north will be looking for the Scottish Government to bring some Christmas cheer when it announces its budget for 2024-25 next month.

“The UK Government has extended its 75 per cent business rates discount for retail, hospitality, and leisure firms in England and Wales. This was a measure not replicated by the Scottish Government in this past financial year to the great disappointment of these sectors. We urge the Scottish Government to now listen to the urgent calls of businesses for this measure to be replicated so that Scotland is not left behind.

“The Chancellor has outlined some measures which do affect businesses such as the measure to help get the domestic labour market back into work, which is welcome.

“However, these are long-term measures that will take time to bear fruit. Businesses need staff now and the UK Government needs to consider how it can support firms in this area immediately. Businesses need an immigration system that is agile and flexible to the needs of the economy, when they cannot recruit locally.”

Trudy Morris welcomed some of the measures but felt they don't go far enough
Trudy Morris welcomed some of the measures but felt they don't go far enough

She added: “There is no doubt a sigh of relief for our drinks industry with the announcement the Chancellor is freezing alcohol duty following the 10.1per cent increase seen in August, which hopefully will provide much-needed stability for our distillers.

“There was also some welcome news for employees and the self-employed with the reduction in National Insurance, which will help household incomes, where rising costs are still having an impact.

“We now look to the Scottish Government to deliver for the Scottish economy and businesses next month.”

The Chancellor made announcements on taxation, national insurance, welfare benefits and pensions as well as the economy and public finances and business and infrastructure.

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