I have been working hard with the Shadow Chancellor and other colleagues to make the case for extending support in time and to more people. There is some good news in the Budget but the 3 million excluded have been mostly missed out again. Also, some of the business support schemes will have to be implemented by the Scottish Government. £1.2bn of support comes to the Scottish Government as a result of today’s budget and I have been saying that every penny of that, and the £2.7bn unspent in Scotland to date according to Audit Scotland, is given to businesses and individuals today.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

The Chancellor has announced the extension of the furlough scheme until September 2021. Employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July, increasing to 20% in August and September, as the economy reopens

I believe this could have been done months ago to give additional security to furloughed workers but it would be churlish not to welcome this move and I am sure businesses and employees will welcome it too although the cost of the scheme to businesses that have no income is difficult.

Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

SEISS has also been extended to September with a fourth payment In April covering the period February- April. This will cover up to 80% of these three months’ trading profits up to £7,500. A fifth payment will be made covering May-September.

People whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will get the 80% grant, but self-employed people whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will get a 30% grant.

The government is also eventually widening access to grants, meaning some of those newly self-employed workers with tax returns for 2019-20 will now be eligible. That will cover a number of constituents who were in touch with me.

Universal Credit (UC)

The £20 per week uplift in UC has been extended for 6 months to the end of September. The Chancellor had tried to scrap the uplift but political pressure from the Labour Party and many backbench Conservatives has changed his mind. I was working closely with Save the Children on this and they were demanding a year’s extension. Given the principle of extension to help the poorest and hardest hit has been established we will continue to make the case.

Business support

I appreciate that the above changes will not assist most of the 3 million people who have been left behind, known as “the excluded”.

Specifically on business, the devolution of business to the Scottish Parliament means that decisions on business support packages such as business rates etc are made by the Scottish Government. Any money allocated by the Chancellor to English business is then allocated proportionately (through the Barnett Formula) to the devolved administrations. It is then up to the Scottish Government to replicate the English schemes if they so wish but they can either devise their own schemes or spend the £1.2bn on anything else they wish. I want every penny spent on business and individual support.

I remain concerned at the speed at which the schemes are being replicated and the apparent lack of support for specific sectors and will continue to push the Scottish Government on this. We still have huge gaps for Scottish businesses that are being supported in other parts of the UK.

For more information on business support available please see the CEC website (the councils is simply administering funds design by the Scottish Government).

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