I spoke today in the Budget Debate, highlighting elements of benefit to residents in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. Alas, due to Parliamentary time constraints, my eight minute speech was reduced to three, so I have copied below the original text containing the full detail. There are some big wins, and a few areas on which I have called for further work. Overall, I think it's a good budget for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Scotland and the UK.
Thursday 1 Nov 2018
Thank you very much Madam Deputy Speaker. The Budget of Monday past has been applauded by many, but I have been asking myself ‘what will it do for the constituents of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock?’ I believe there are a significant range of measures within it that will benefit not just my constituents, but the whole of Scotland and the UK as well.
Between this year and next, the Scottish Government will benefit from a funding boost of nearly £1bn. I know my constituents will welcome this increase, and I am sure they will keep a weather eye on how wisely this is spent by the Scottish Government, hopefully on ‘people projects’ and not ‘pet projects’! Indeed, by 2020 the Scottish Government’s block grant will have grown to over £32bn before adjustments for tax devolution, a real-terms increase over this Spending Review period.
Those of my constituents who, like me, enjoy a dram, will very much welcome the freeze on spirits duty. I was very pleased indeed to see the concerted efforts of Scottish Conservatives and others recognised by the Chancellor, and I know my constituents, and the industry in Scotland, will be greatly encouraged by this. Whisky supports 50,000 jobs nationally, contributes around £3.2bn to the Scottish economy and is the single largest contributor to the UK trade in goods. I know a few, not least my drinking companions in Ayr, Messrs Brown and McLoughlin, who will enjoy that wee dram a little bit more as a result!
The National Living Wage introduced by this Government will now increase to £8.21 per hour, meaning that 117,000 of the lowest-paid in Scotland will enjoy an increase in their take-home pay as a result. This is very much to be welcomed and, thanks to an early increase in the personal allowance, the average Scottish worker will enjoy a £130 tax cut as well.
I know some in this House were, like myself, concerned with the transition period for households moving on to Universal Credit, and I very much welcome the transitional support delivered for those households. It is good to hear that there will be an extensive package of support, which I know will provide reassurance to a number of my constituents.
Likewise, the increase in social care funding is very welcome, as is the £550 million for health spending, the first tranche of a £2 billion Barnett NHS bonus to the Scottish Government over the next five years. If used wisely, this will assist in addressing concerns of underinvestment in GPs, waiting times, bed-blocking and failures in the integrated social care system presided over by the Scottish Government.
Tax barriers have been removed for new investment in North Sea oil and gas, incentivising further industry investment in order to access difficult to reach oil and gas fields, and the launch of a programme to work towards strengthening our position as a global hub for oil and gas decommissioning has great potential for employment north of the border.
Moreover, fishermen across Scotland, and indeed the UK, will be delighted with the £10m investment for fisheries innovation, which will help them to transform and modernise the industry, making us a world leader in safe and sustainable fishing. As this industry transforms post-Brexit, I would very much welcome further Government support in replacing and expanding our aging fishing fleet.
I was delighted also to hear the Chancellor highlighting the Government’s support for the Ayrshire Growth Deal, and I will continue working with colleagues, local councils the Scottish Office and the Scottish Government to move this forward. Over the next ten to fifteen years, this growth deal has the potential to drive forward the economy and employment in my constituency and the ongoing support will be well received in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.
I was similarly pleased to note the Chancellor announcing support for high streets, and it would be good to see the Scottish Government do something similar with their increased funding, in place of the over-complex range of modest ‘small business bonus schemes’ on offer at the moment. Something simpler and more competitive would be welcomed by small businesses in my constituency. Whilst I certainly welcome this recognition, with so many derelict and abandoned buildings on our high streets already, one wonders if there is a need for early intervention as opposed to tolerating decades of decay, with high streets becoming a visual blight on the landscape. High streets are the heart of our communities and must be supported going forward as the retail landscape adapts to rapidly changing trends.
As for the announcement of the pothole fund, my Scottish colleagues on this side of the house have been calling for something equally bold in Scotland for some time. Too little has been achieved by the Scottish Government in this regard and my constituents, their cars, bikes and motorbikes are suffering as a result.
In conclusion, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am delighted to see that there are some real wins for my constituents, who will be better off as a result of the Budget changes.
Whilst there are one or two matters on which I would have liked to see further measures, I am not aware of any budget in history that has ever satisfied everybody, and I do not accept the doom and gloom of members opposite, who seem to indulge in pessimism for political purposes. I am confident that this Budget has done much to improve day to day matters for my constituents and businesses in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.