SNP unhappy at delay

Johnson pledges tax-cutting budget by February if elected

Handouts: Boris Johnson is promising tax cuts

Boris Johnson says he will hold a tax-cutting Budget by February if he secures a majority at next week’s election, prompting anxiety at Holyrood over the short window to hold a Scottish budget before the start of the new tax year.

A scheduled 6 November budget was scrapped when the General Election was called and this also meant the Scottish statement, planned for 12 December – election day – also had to be abandoned.

In a statement highlighting its plans for the first 100 days of government, the Conservative party said it would hold a “post-Brexit Budget in February which will cut taxes for hardworking families”.

Among the tax cuts so far known about is a plan to increase the national insurance threshold to £9,500, which the party said would save the average taxpayer £85 a year.

Delaying the budget means the Scottish Government will not know how much funding is available in order to set its own budget.

The SNP said it also leaves the Scottish Parliament with potentially only weeks, instead of months, to scrutinise and debate the budget.

Derek Mackay

Derek Mackay: ‘we are operating with both hands tied behind our backs’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotland’s Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “The Tories have a long track record of ignoring the needs of the people of Scotland, but delaying the UK budget until February – just weeks before the new financial year – is nothing short of contempt for Scotland and for devolution.

“Having wrecked their own parliamentary processes, they want to damage ours too.

“Under the current arrangements, we need a UK budget, before we can set the Scottish budget. Without it we are operating with both hands tied behind our back, making it impossible to plan with any certainty.

“Boris Johnson clearly doesn’t understand Scotland, devolution or simple good governance.

“If Boris Johnson is able to win a majority next week it will simply add to the economic uncertainty being caused by Brexit that is putting substantial strain on Scotland’s public services. The UK Government was ready to present a budget in early November, so there is no good reason to delay it for two months after the election.”

However, Westminster budgets have only been held in the autumn for the past two years, when normally they took place in March.

Addressing the Brexit timetable in an interview with ITV’s This Morning, Mr Johnson said: “I absolutely promise if we get a working majority, if we get just nine seats more, we can be out on 31 January.”

He also said a new trade agreement with the EU could be agreed “by the end of next year”, calling it a “very exciting prospect”.

Interviewed by Sky News, Chancellor Sajid Javid declined to be drawn on whether he would consider lifting the 40% threshold on higher earners in England, saying only that the government was “prioritising people on lower incomes”.

Mr Javid said he did not have a “single doubt” a Conservative government could then agree a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020.

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