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Calls for Scottish Government not to ‘ignore’ specific needs of Grampian and Highlands in new budget

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

Calls have been made for the Scottish Government not to “ignore” the concerns that face Grampian and the Highland during Thursday’s budget announcement after an oil and gas downturn and thousands of job losses have plagued the region.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said successive Scottish Government budgets have “let down” the north-east of Scotland and urged Holyrood to provide more equal funding across all local authorities.

A new report from UK think tank Centre for Cities shows the coronavirus pandemic has left all Scottish cities facing “big economic challenges” with Aberdeen hit “disproportionately hard”.

It calls on the Scottish and UK Government to “act fast” to stem unemployment and create jobs by making city centres better places for high-skilled businesses to locate.

Mr Ross said: “We’ve seen in successive budgets that the Scottish Government have let down the north-east of Scotland and clearly the very specific needs of north-east councils have been ignored.

“This is why I’ve said since I became leader that I wasn’t to see far fairer funding for local authorities across Scotland, not just those in the Central Belt, which seems to be where the current Scottish Government focusses all their efforts.

“The North Sea Transition Deal is one that myself and my colleagues are focussing on ahead of the UK budget, but absolutely there is significant potential in the north-east and the Highlands to really reap the benefits of new technologies in the renewables sector as well.”

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden also called for the Scottish Government to “do more” to combat the specific problems the city faces.

Recent Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace) figures predict more than 8,000 people across the north-east could be made redundant as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moray and the Highlands have also faced a steep increase in unemployment since March.

Mr Lumsden said: “More needs to be done to protect jobs and create new jobs as we come through the pandemic and I don’t think the Scottish Government are taking into account the specific problems that Aberdeen faces and I don’t think they have for quite a while.

“More money needs to be directed at local authorities so we can help the people on the ground.

“It’s not just the pandemic, but the downturn in oil and gas sector that’s causing us problems.”

Douglas Lumsden

The report shows Dundee faces the biggest economic challenge post-Covid with a 4.1% reduction in employment, followed closely by Glasgow (also 4.1%) and then Aberdeen (3.4%).

Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart said: “The North East is impacted by the oil price downturn and the coronavirus pandemic, but as we know from independent research, Brexit is set to hit Aberdeen harder than any other city in the entire UK – this is an inescapable fact and no factor can be looked at in isolation.

“My SNP colleagues and I have continually pressed for an energy sector deal to support jobs in Aberdeen, but we have yet to see a single penny from the UK Government despite warm words.

“The Scottish Government have stepped up to the plate and has pledged £62 million for sustainable energy transition.”

Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We understand the challenge the Covid-19 measures present for businesses – particularly the impact on employment opportunities.

“That is why we have put in place a package of package of support worth over £3 billion to limit the impact of the pandemic, including 100% rates relief for pubs and restaurants for the year, and have committed £48 million to our new Covid-19 Restrictions Fund to help affected businesses and protect jobs”

“We provided £1 million to Aberdeen City Council in August to help provide support to businesses affected by the restrictions in place at the time, and we have also increased the grant funding available to businesses.”

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