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Caithness Chamber of Commerce comment on Scottish Budget 2019/20

Speaking about the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work’s recent Scottish Budget, Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:

“This Budget represents a mixed bag for businesses in the North Highlands, and we are concerned – as we were with the recent UK Budget – that the proposals contained therein remain uncertain until an outcome to the Brexit negotiations is clear.

“We welcome the fact that the Cabinet Secretary has listened to the voice of business on business rates. A reduction in the poundage rate, and the decision not to introduce the out-of-town levy, will make a real difference to businesses across the region. We also welcome the introduction of a £50m capital fund to support town centres and look forward to working with Scottish Government and our colleagues in Scottish Chambers of Commerce to understand how this fund will be distributed fairly across Scotland.

“We also welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment to increase local government funding. It is now in Highland Council’s hands to use this additional funding in a way which delivers for the economy of the North Highlands.

“Education and skills are key issues for businesses in the North Highlands. The commitment of additional funding to the education and fair work and employment portfolios is a welcome one, and we hope that schools and those agencies delivering skills development will use these additional pots to ensure that the education and skills provision is meeting the future needs of our businesses.

“We do remain concerned that the Cabinet Secretary has not followed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s lead in raising thresholds on income tax. Whilst the impacts on of this disparity between income tax regimes north and south of the border haven’t been fully quantified, we are concerned that this creates yet another barrier to attracting and retaining skills especially in regions such as the North Highlands. We need to ensure Scotland is an attractive proposition in terms of employment, lifestyle and services."