SNP don’t value re­gion

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - Opinion -

It’s fair to say 2017 is set to be a year of chal­lenges. With firms strug­gling in the face of colos­sal hikes in busi­ness rates and lo­cal fund­ing on the way down, it makes for grim read­ing across the re­gion.

The ques­tion in the minds of many is: does the SNP truly value the con­tri­bu­tion of the north-east?

In its re­cent bud­get, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment de­cided the only way to re­duce the bur­den of busi­ness rates on small busi­nesses was to push the charges up else­where.

This means many medium and large em­ploy­ers in the north-east and else­where are see­ing their bills rise by tens of thou­sands of pounds. This is an ex­er­cise in SNP sleight-of-hand, not an over­all in­vest­ment in the Scot­tish econ­omy.

The crush­ing in­creases for many busi­nesses will mean that medium-sized em­ploy­ers, such as restau­rants and ho­tels, will have to look at costs, in­clud­ing re­cruit­ment costs.

In turn, this acts as a drag on the econ­omy with un­em­ploy­ment, al­ready higher than south of the bor­der, ris­ing again this week.

Given 120,000 jobs lost due to the oil price slump, this is the op­po­site of what we need. As usual un­der the SNP, the north-east is get­ting a raw deal.

Be­fore the 2011 elec­tion, the SNP promised ev­ery lo­cal author­ity would get at least 85% of the na­tional av­er­age fund­ing. Yet the SNP bud­get would leave Aberdeen City £23mil­lion short of the bare min­i­mum fund­ing level promised. This raises a se­ri­ous point. In the next fi­nan­cial year, Aberdeen City fund­ing is £1,399 per per­son, yet the Scot­tish av­er­age is £1,763. Even to reach the 85% promised tar­get it would need an in­crease in fund­ing of £100 per per­son from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Mean­while, one of the busi­nesses which is set to gain from these changes is the SNP’s own head­quar­ters in cen­tral Ed­in­burgh. Its rates will drop by a third.

This will leave a bit­ter taste in the mouth of busi­nesses hav­ing to con­tem­plate their fu­ture due to these changes. Let’s see if the SNP will pro­vide more sup­port to their Banff and Buchan branch which com­plained it couldn’t af­ford a ho­tel room be­cause of price changes driven by the hike in busi­ness rates. So busi­ness rates leap up, jobs are at risk and north-east tax pay­ers don’t even get the ben­e­fit of the ser­vices they con­trib­ute so hand­somely too. Is this the bet­ter Scot­land that the SNP promised? This is scan­dalous be­hav­iour from a gov­ern­ment whose pro­gramme for the econ­omy has lurched from in­com­pe­tence to catas­tro­phe.

What’s the so­lu­tion? Well, back in 2010, Scot­tish Lib­eral Democrats were warn­ing about the threat posed by crip­pling in­creases in non-do­mes­tic rates bills in Scot­land and the im­pact that these could have, par­tic­u­larly on hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism.

Rates then rose by up to 120%. That is why we pro­posed a mo­tion to cap busi­ness rate in­creases.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Tories and the SNP joined forces and voted the mo­tion down.

A tran­si­tional scheme would give time for busi­nesses to ap­peal their val­u­a­tions.

Sup­ported by al­most twothirds of firms, it would al­low small busi­nesses to im­me­di­ately ben­e­fit while pro­tect­ing lo­cal busi­nesses from mas­sive jumps in their rates.

Yet, when this was put to the fi­nance sec­re­tary, it was point-blank re­jected.

This speaks of a gov­ern­ment that has com­pletely lost touch with the needs of lo­cal busi­nesses and com­mu­ni­ties.

Sadly, it seems the SNP are blind to the threat their se­vere rates rises will have on medium-sized en­ter­prises and their work­ers.

Their ac­tions show they do not truly value the north-east. While min­is­ters go off and pur­sue an­other at­tempt to break up the UK, our lo­cal ser­vices and lo­cal busi­nesses con­tinue to strug­gle.

As usual un­der the SNP, the north-east is get­ting a raw deal

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