Scottish business chiefs reacted to the Budget with cautious support for some of the measures outlined by the chancellor – but also misgivings.
While Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the prospect of transferable taxes in the North Sea oil and gas industry, Caithness Chamber of Commerce (CCC) was “disappointed by the lack of clarity” about how new UK Government investment will benefit Scotland.
CCC chief executive Trudy Morris said: “It is concerning to see that the Office for Budget Responsibility has significantly downgraded its forecasts on productivity growth, business investment and GDP (gross domestic product) growth.
“This shows a worrying lack of confidence and resilience in the UK’s economy.
“We suspect this is in part due to the ongoing lack of certainty around Brexit – an uncertainty which today’s Budget, sadly, did little to address.
“That the chancellor has set aside additional funding for Brexit preparations is welcome, but there remains a lack of detail around exactly what these preparations might entail.”
Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said Philip Hammond had “unveiled some positive measures” to address the UK’s slowing growth and faltering productivity rates, but warned the Treasury’s raising of the personal allowance and higher rate threshold increased the importance of maintaining a level playing field for tax across the UK.
Elsewhere, the chambers welcomed Mr Hammond’s plans to freeze duty on beer and spirits and his decision not to lower the VAT threshold.
Mr Hammond announced a further £2.3billion for investment in research and development and an increase in the main R&D tax credit rate from 11% to 12%.
Gillian McColgan, senior tax manager at Johnston Carmichael in Aberdeen, said she expected this to be a boon to many larger firms across the north and north-east.
Meanwhile, Andy Willox, the Aberdeen-based policy convenor for the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, said: “The last thing that Scottish small firms wanted was a Budget which pulled the rug from under them.
“The chancellor’s solid plans will give many in business a little of the stability they crave.
“As many as 190,000 Scottish micro-businesses – like crofters, musicians and start-ups – could have been hit had the VAT threshold been lowered.”
North-east construction firm Stewart Milne Group called it a “positive” Budget, with the boss of its homes division in the north, John Low, adding: “The overall sentiment is very much towards fixing the broken housing market.
“We will have to wait and see how the Scottish Government tackles this to ensure there is a level playing field north of the border.”
And Scottish Engineering chief executive Bryan Buchan said: “It would appear that most of the benefits from the chancellor’s Autumn Budget will apply only to England. We in Scotland will have to wait for another month to see how our cabinet secretary for finance, Derek MacKay MSP, can compete.”