03 Mar 2021
Commenting on the UK Budget delivered today by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
"This budget was always going to be a difficult balance for the Chancellor, given we are still in the midst of a major economic and health crisis.
"There is good news on several fronts which will help businesses in Scotland plan with a level of confidence. In particular, the extension of the furlough scheme is a major boost which will help businesses retain as many jobs as possible and support thousands of employees across Scotland and indeed the UK.
"The extension of VAT reduction for the hardest hit sectors and investment incentives respond directly to our calls and will provide much-needed support to Scottish businesses.
"Reassurance has been provided today. But the Chancellor must keep the door open to providing more support if the pandemic hits our economic re-opening plans again."
On extension of Employment Support measures and VAT holiday for the most affected businesses, Liz Cameron said:
“Our central call to the Chancellor was to extend the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, recognising just how essential it is to protect jobs and support businesses. The Chancellor has made the right decision to extend this lifeline support package as well as maintaining VAT reductions for the most-affected businesses.
"Let's not lose sight that the doors of many businesses remain closed. The tapering of support may need to be reviewed for some sectors such as tourism to reflect the length of time it will take for businesses to reach operating capacity.
"The widening of the self-employment support scheme for the army of self-employed people is hugely welcome and will provide vital relief through the coming months.
"Both the Scottish & UK Government must now collaborate more than ever before to make sure businesses and jobs remain protected until we are well on the road to economic recovery."
On those who have fallen through gaps in support, Liz Cameron said:
“Despite the widening of the self-employment support scheme, there are still too many businesses and individuals who have been unable to access any government support. They will require support too if they are to survive the difficult months ahead while the economy remains shuttered."
On the super deduction investment incentive, Liz Cameron said:
“We called for bold incentives to encourage investment and we are pleased the Chancellor has listened. This incentive will provide a major boost for companies to invest and grow which will support economic recovery and productivity."
On grant support funding, Liz Cameron said:
“The budget has provided an extra £1.2billion in consequentials for Scotland. Ideally this will be allocated to ensuring a level playing field is achieved where possible, including the training support for people of all ages which will be essential to put in place the right skills for economic recovery.
“The challenge now is to ensure that the consequentials provided to the Scottish Government are focused and targeted to the business community to help us not only recover, but to have a chance to develop our business models, reskill and ready to grasp future opportunities."
On extension of Stamp Duty compared to Scotland’s housing market, Liz Cameron said:
“The Scottish Government must match an extension of the increased threshold for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) to that of the stamp duty holiday in England if there is to be a level playing field in the property market from April to June. This could be a major boost to Scotland's housebuilding industry and the wider supply chain."
On investment in the North East of Scotland and green energy jobs, Liz Cameron said:
“Scotland’s energy industry has made a significant commitment to supporting the UK government’s net zero ambitions.
“The package of funding for the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone and further support for the Global Underwater Hub will help support Scotland’s energy industry and its world class subsea sector to deliver the green jobs we all need to see as our industries and our economy recovers from the challenges of a global pandemic.
“The initial investment to develop a North Sea Transition deal is a welcome first step in galvanising the plans and investment required to deliver exciting projects in hydrogen, offshore wind and other clean energy technologies that will be essential to achieving UK net zero ambitions."
On Freeports, Liz Cameron said:
“We understand that the Scottish Government is due to distribute its bid prospectus calling for interested parties to come forward with ideas to develop greenports / freeports. Speed is of the essence now and Scotland cannot be behind the ball on this one. We need both Governments to work together and align as far as is possible to ensure Scottish businesses can benefit from incentives and we attract global investment."
On Corporation Tax, Liz Cameron said:
“The business community understands that the fiscal response to the pandemic has been extraordinary and someone needs to pay the piper, but we need to ensure that there are no changes in taxation that will harm the recovery. Therefore, we welcome the time-lag announced which will give businesses time to trade through this crisis before the tax increases are applied. We need the economy firing on all cylinders to ensure that damage inflicted by the pandemic does not become permanent."
On the new UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme, Liz Cameron said:
"We are pleased to see the successor to the CBILS and BBL loan schemes announced today. The new UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme will play a practical role in providing much needed working capital to businesses all of sizes, and will play a critical role in helping businesses trade out of the crisis."