Forbes pledges ‘targeted’ plan for firms and families
Kate Forbes: tackling inequality
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is promising her Scottish Budget this week will provide new measures to help businesses and families recover from the pandemic, and a pay deal for public sector workers.
She will announce initiatives to drive economic growth, create jobs and tackle inequality.
Ahead of delivering her second Scottish Budget, Ms Forbes said: “The budget on Thursday will create the conditions for Scotland to recover and renew.
“We remain in the grip of a pandemic which continues to put pressure on our economy, health services and each of us as individuals. But the vaccine is providing a route back to normality and we must now sharpen our focus on rebuilding for the future.
“The budget will include innovative, targeted measures to help businesses and families get back on their feet and bolster our vital public services. I have already ruled out following the UK Government’s public sector pay freeze and will set out details of a pay settlement that is both fair and affordable.
“It is vital that we rebuild our economy in a way that provides equal opportunities for all, delivers on our green commitments and creates the kind of Scotland we all want to see.
“This process has already started. For instance we have established a National Transition Training Fund providing targeted support for up to 10,000 people, set out our £60 million Young Person’s Guarantee and committed £2 billion in low carbon funding. The budget will set out how we intend to further these ambitions.
“Ahead of the budget we sought views on the role of Scotland’s devolved taxes and our fiscal framework in supporting the recovery.
“There was clear feedback regarding the need for stability and targeted support and that has also been a particularly strong message in my meetings with businesses and their representative organisations. The budget will deliver on those priorities.”
Ms Forbes will once again claim that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to delay the Westminster Budget has made her calculations on spending more difficult, even though the Scottish Budget could have been delayed until after his statement on 3 March.
Tracy Black: ‘the pandemic must not hold back investment (pic: Terry Murden)
She will say: “Despite the UK Government’s budget being delayed until March, and the uncertainty that causes, the Scottish Budget 2021-22 will confirm funding allocations for local government.”
CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium are among business organisations calling for an extension to business rates relief beyond April.
However, Ms Forbes would only say she will provide detail on how, “within our limited resources”, we will go “as far as we can” to support businesses in receipt of non-domestic rates relief.
“The global pandemic and the problems arising from Brexit combine to make these uniquely challenging times. This budget will help Scotland emerge as a globally competitive, fairer and greener country and I urge all parties to work in the national interest to ensure it is passed by the Scottish Parliament.”
The CBI has urged Ms Forbes to “evolve and escalate the scale of Covid grant schemes to reach businesses with speed and simplicity, “particularly if government restrictions continue to hamstring activity.”
It wants the Finance Secretary to avoid income tax rises “that would discourage people from spending to support vital tourism, hospitality, and retail sectors.”
As part of the promotion of a green agenda it wants to see fast-track funding and planning for a rapid expansion and acceleration of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Tracy Black, CBI Scotland director, said: “The immediate challenge [of controlling the pandemic] must not prevent us from investing in the future.
“We need to start laying the foundations for recovery now and putting in place a clear plan for building back better from the pandemic.
“Unlocking the private sector is pivotal to kickstarting recovery and limiting the lasting economic damage done by COVID-19. That’s why we need to create a stable, competitive, pro-business environment where firms can grow, recruit and invest with confidence.”