Tag Archives: budget

Budget drama in Scotland – Willie Rennie wants “an education focus as never before”

The Scottish Government unveils its budget this Thursday. The SNP mislaid their majority in Holyrood in the elections last year so there could be a bit of drama between now and February when the Finance Bill is finalised.

The last time a Budget fell was in 2009 when the Greens, to everyone’s surprise, voted against. A couple of weeks later, to nobody’s surprise, they voted for it but hadn’t extracted anything of consequence from the Government.

When John Swinney was Finance Minister, he used to engage pretty well with the other parties. Willie Rennie was able to get things like free school meals, tens of thousands of college places and nursery education for 2 years olds put in. However, now that we have started beating the SNP pretty comprehensively, the atmosphere has turned a bit nasty.

New Finance Minister Derek Mackay is playing games with crucial inter-island ferry services in Orkney and Shetland, both represented by Liberal Democrat MSPs. Various SNP Ministers have been giving the very strong impression that they would help the Islands Councils with the cost of these ferries without which some remote communities simply could not survive.

Now, however, they are inferring that it’ll only go in the Budget if the Lib Dems promise to vote for it. That sort of posturing doesn’t play well in those communities. The issue was debated in Parliament last week during a Lib Dem opposition day and the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf made a pretty blatant threat.

There is a window of opportunity for Liberal Democrat members of the Scottish Parliament. Either they can engage positively in the budget, have a discussion about this important issue and side with their constituents, or they can play party politics.

I mean, we’d brought the issue to the floor of the Parliament, which was discussing it at that time and made its view plain by passing the Lib Dem motion. If SNP ministers fail to honour Parliament’s wishes, that is a pretty serious thing. 

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Lib Dems respond to the budget: We would kickstart the economy back to growth and exit from Brexit

So, we’ve seen the extent of Phil’s spreadsheet and it didn’t make pretty reading. An economy on the slide, a disastrous Brexit on the horizon, growth forecasts crumbling – and that’s before we even get to the awful bit. Hammond’s response to all of this seemed so, well, inadequate. It’s like your town is flooding before your eyes and someone goes to Boots and buys a bath sponge to mop up the damage.

If this country is going to survive the oncoming storm it needed massive investment – a social housebuilding programme to rival that in the post war years, investment in infrastructure, a boost to the NHS. What do we get instead? A bit of tinkering and a few little traps set for the SNP to try to bolster the Tories in Scotland.

Vince Cable told Adam Boulton that we’re in a mess, the slump in economic growth costs each of us £700 and that the Chancellor has put more money aside in the event of a horrendous brexit no deal crash than he has invested in the NHS. Watch him here.

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Vince: Only Lib Dems offer strategy for growth and prosperity

Earlier, we brought you a flavour of Vince’s big pre-Budget speech.  Here is the speech in full:

As Leader of the Liberal Democrats, it is one of my responsibilities to give a serious Lib Dem analysis of the economics around the Budget, and to present an alternative.

I have recently been returned to Parliament from exile.

One of my regrets, however, is that the previous competition between the parties on economic competence no longer exists.

The likes of Gordon Brown, George Osborne, Ed Balls and Oliver Letwin were all serious players and thinkers even if I often disagreed with them.

Now, the economy – pivotal still to people’s lives – has been relegated to the margins of political debate.

The June election produced minimal discussion of economic policy.

The Conservatives didn’t produce any economic numbers in their manifesto.

Labour did, but as the IFS caustically pointed out at the time, there was a strong element of fantasy.

My Party did much better than our rivals at the hands of the IFS and serious commentators at the FT and The Economist but few noticed. And, now, economic debate is drowned out by the politics of Brexit and an unstable government.

Yet this is an unusually important and difficult budget.

The Chancellor has foresworn the use of a second budget, traditionally used to correct the mistakes in the first.

And the potential for a massive, if unquantifiable, economic shock from an unsatisfactory deal – or, even, ‘no deal’ is palpable.

Brexit hangs over the forecasts.

The environment of radical uncertainty is already spooking business investment and depressing growth, including the growth in government revenue.

I want, then, to set out some analysis of where we are and some ideas for where the Liberal Democrats think Britain could and should go.

Our focus is on freeing up capital spending to build the homes and infrastructure the country needs, on reviving the NHS with a targeted injection of cash, and on giving a leg up to young people with a learning account as they begin their working lives.

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Rennie says SNP Government must put more into mental health, the police and helping disadvantaged kids in schools

It’s time for the Scottish Parliament to debate the Government’s budget plans for the coming year. It’s particularly interesting this year as the SNP no longer has a majority and must secure the backing, or at least the abstention, of others in order for the budget to pass.

Willie Rennie has written to Derek Mackay, the SNP’s Finance Minister, to set out the changes that the Liberal Democrats wish to see before they could consider supporting the budget.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that he is sticking to the priorities we outlined in our manifesto for the Scottish elections last year – more money for disadvantaged kids in schools as we implemented successfully south of the border, an expansion of mental health services, particularly for young people, and more funding for the Police who are struggling to cope with the SNP’s disastrous centralisation.

It’s quite important that we have all this in mind in everything that we do during this Parliament. We need to think about what we want to achieve and what we will have to say to voters in 2021 about what we have fought for and where we are not prepared to settle for tepid, unambitious half-measures. In the last Parliament, where the SNP had a majority, we still made issues like early years education, colleges, the Police, civil liberties and mental health our own and won significant concessions from the SNP in budget discussions. Now that there is no majority, we need to push for more.

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The Greatest Show On Earth

 

From the great theatrical showman in Las Vegas to the street-hustlers on trestle tables asking tourists to watch the cups; misdirection, the foremost requirement of magic, is a deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.

No matter in what forum they perform, from street magicians to TV illusionists, magicians have the ability to use their skills to create something out of nothing, of reordering the universe to defy the rules of logic before our very eyes – and who knew that the Conservative government was creating the greatest show on earth.

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Independent: Liberal Democrats’ “major and under-rated contribution” to Budget success

Budget 2010 photocallYesterday’s Independent editorial had some very complimentary things to say about the Liberal Democrats’ influence on the Budget:

It is widely said that George Osborne had a decent Budget this week, aided in no small part by Ed Miliband’s curiously weak response. But the Liberal Democrats, as has frequently been the case during this parliament, made a major and underrated contribution to its success.

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Alan Reid MP writes… Time for the Chancellor to be fair on Scotch

WhiskyAs the local MP for Islay, I see frequently just how important whisky is to the island. Eight distilleries (and another planned), and the world famous brands they produce, help to drive the local economy and attract tourists from around the world to a remote corner of the Scottish west coast.

What is less easy to understand is why the UK continues to penalise the industry in its home market. Today, nearly 80% of an average priced bottle of Scotch Whisky – four pounds in every five you spend on a bottle – is accounted for by tax, making whisky one of the UK’s highest taxed consumer products.

Excise duty on whisky has increased by 44% since the introduction of an annual 2% above inflation duty escalator in 2008. The result has been predictable and damaging. The UK market for Scotch is now 12% lower than it was when the escalator was introduced, a loss of 6,500 bottles from the market every day.

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