Rishi Sunak has been urged to use the Budget to give north-east fishermen and distillers a boost.
Ahead of Wednesday’s statement, the Chancellor has been handed an eight-point plan to “re-build” Scotland’s economy in the wake of the pandemic.
The plan, put forward by the Scottish Tories, would see freeport funding confirmed, the £20 uplift to Universal Credit made permanent and infrastructure projects announced through the shared prosperity fund.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross told us: “Our asks would have a huge impact across Scotland and the north-east especially would reap the benefits of our calls for support for the oil and gas sector, extra fisheries funding, more freeports in Scotland, a city deal funding boost, and a review of alcohol duty.
“The Scottish Conservatives have long campaigned for a fair share for the north east from the SNP Government and we are requesting the same from the UK Government.”
Fish and whisky
In a letter to the Chancellor, Mr Ross set out the importance of the fishing sector and whisky industry to the north-east economy .
He called on the Treasury to top up the post-Brexit “fisheries fund” from £100 million to £130 million, saying it would be “vital” if communities were to realise the full benefits of Brexit.
Boris Johnson announced the fund earlier this year, telling MPs it would enable the industry to “take advantage” of opportunities outside the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The Chancellor has also been asked to consider giving the whisky industry a boost by slashing spirits duty.
The sector has been battered by US export tariffs and the pandemic over the last year, putting the future of many distilleries at risk.
Industry insiders have said a 5% cut in taxes would give some vital breathing room and would also aid the Chancellor in his mission to rally the economy.
In his letter, Mr Ross also called for the uptick in welfare support to continue while the battle against Covid-19 still raged.
He said: “The Universal Credit uplift has been a vital safety net this past year, boosting incomes by more than £1,000.
“Extending the uplift as we continue to fight Covid-19 would protect the livelihoods of the half a million people in Scotland who are relying on Universal Credit just now.
“Against the backdrop of the SNP’s increasingly divisive approach, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate the shared values that unite our four nations, of helping those who need it most to get through this crisis.”
On Sunday, the Chancellor indicated he would extend emergency job and benefit support packages, but warned he must also repair the public finances from the “enormous shock” of the pandemic.
He said that on Wednesday he would have to “level with people”, with Covid having had an “enormous hold on our economy” that will cause debt to “rise indefinitely” if borrowing continues after the recovery.