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What to expect from Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Budget

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak

The UK Chancellor will present his latest Budget today, detailing public spending decisions which will affect everyone across the country.

In the Commons, Rishi Sunak will reveal how much money the government is going to give, or take, from public bodies.

It will cover everything from nurses’ wages and infrastructure projects to the price of petrol at the pump.

Much of what Mr Sunak announces will not be immediately clear for Scotland, but will generate more money for devolved government to spend on areas such as the NHS.

With so much already trailed, what do we know and what can we expect?

What we already know

The drip-feed of information includes these announcements from the Chancellor:

  • National Living Wage increases from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour – an extra £1,000 a year for a full-time worker (over 22)
  • National Minimum Wage for people aged 21-22 goes up to £9.18 an hour and Apprentice Rate increases to £4.81 an hour.
  • An extra £500m invested to give people the skills and support they need to find work.
  • £700m for UK Border Force, including £74m for a new fleet of patrol boats.
  • £150m for the British Business Bank to encourage development of Dragons’ Den-style regional investors outside of London and south east
  • £5m for research grants to develop new surgery and treatment options for amputees and blast victims
  • A tax change to encourage shipping companies to the UK

Mr Sunak said: “This is a government that is on the side of working people. This wage boost ensures we’re making work pay and keeps us on track to meet our target to end low pay by the end of this Parliament.”

VAT cuts and energy U-turns

Scottish Government finance minister Kate Forbes wrote to Mr Sunak with her own demands overnight.

She called for an extension to the VAT cut for the hospitality sector, which has been battered by the pandemic.

Ms Forbes also wants an immediate U-turn from the UK Government on a major energy scheme in the north-east.

The Acorn project includes a pioneering carbon capture plan and the potential for thousands of jobs. But it failed to get into the first round of UK funding last week.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes

The SNP and Labour want a lot more out of the Chancellor. But Conservatives are also looking for quick wins in their own backyards.

Flight tax reduction

North-east Conservative MP Andrew Bowie wrote to the Chancellor asking for a reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights.

In the 1990s return legs on domestic journeys were exempt from the tax, which was introduced by a Tory government in 1994.

More than half of passengers flying from Aberdeen, he adds, do so to another UK airport, meaning a reduction in the duty could result in increased passenger numbers.

Andrew Bowie MP

Cut on beer duty

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie is calling for a reduction on beer duty, as well as a cut on VAT and business rates for pubs.

The SNP member said the brewing industry and pubs in his constituency supports almost 1,000 jobs and contributes £21 million to the local economy.

He said: “I hope the Chancellor recognises as I do the social, cultural, and economical role pubs play.

“Pubs are at the heart of many communities across Dundee East and play a massive role in the local economy, but have been bearing a disproportionate burden as a result of the pandemic.”

Stewart Hosie MP

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association backed calls for more support for struggling pubs, clubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

How to tackle a cost of living ‘crisis’?

Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson attacked cuts under the UK Government and will be looking for more support for households.

“The pandemic has shaken our economy to the core and if we do not act now to put fairness at the heart of our recovery, thousands of people will be thrown into hardship this winter,” he said.

“This budget must deliver real and tangible support for those struggling to make ends meet.”

‘Falling apart’

SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP called the minimum wage increase “limited” and not in line with the cost of living.

She got her attack in before the Budget.

“Rishi Sunak’s Budget is falling apart before it has even been delivered,” she said.

“It beggars belief that the Tories are making families poorer and expecting us to be grateful.”

Alison Thewliss MP

“The limited adjustment to the minimum wage won’t even begin to compensate families for the £1,040 Tory cuts to Universal Credit, let alone mitigate the impact of the National Insurance tax hike or the rising cost of living.”

She said the public sector pay freeze should never have been imposed.

“It was a slap in the face to the frontline workers helping us through the pandemic,” she said.