Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK Government has more than risen to the task of protecting jobs and businesses across Scotland and this Budget extends that support well into the next financial year.
The furlough and self-employment support schemes, which have together protected over 930,000 Scottish jobs, have been extended to September.
The reduction of VAT for hospitality and tourism businesses to 5 per cent has also been extended to September, with the rate remaining at just 12.5 per cent for the rest of the financial year.
In addition, we have seen the announcement of new Recovery Loans to support businesses further.
I am particularly pleased that the Chancellor has decided to extend the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.
This will ensure that those on the lowest or no income continue to be supported throughout this crisis.
As well as delivering a plan to get us through the end of the pandemic restrictions, the Chancellor has also announced vital measures to support Scotland’s recovery.
The UK Government has frozen fuel duty for the eleventh year in a row, which has cumulatively saved the average Scottish driver £1,600. This is despite Scottish Government lobbying for the tax to be increased.
The Chancellor has also decided to freeze spirit duty, which benefits our national drink, Scotch whisky, and the 11,000 jobs it supports.
In addition, we will see £34 million invested in the North East economy and its transition to green energy and an acceleration of the investment in the Ayrshire, Argyll and Bute and Falkirk Growth Deals.
The spending commitments made in this Budget, will result in an additional £1.2 billion for the Scottish Government to spend on our public services.
Overall, the Scottish Government will have received an additional £13.3 billion from the UK Government since the start of the pandemic.
However, what Scottish families will not benefit from is the decision to extend the holiday on stamp duty for buyers in England. The Scottish Government has already announced that taxes on home buyers in Scotland will rise and I would urge to Scottish Government to reconsider their decision.
The measures taken by the UK Government to protect jobs and businesses in the face of a global pandemic have not come without a substantial cost.
That is why it is right that the Chancellor has set out a long-term strategy to get our finances back under control, while driving our recovery and protecting family incomes.
This Budget sets out an ambitious plan not only to protect jobs and businesses to the end of this pandemic but also to provide the basis for our economic recovery in the future.
In the coming election, voters will be presented with the choice of focusing our Scottish Parliament on that recovery or on a damaging and divisive independence referendum.
Let’s choose to rebuild Scotland and the whole of the UK together.