My overall feeling about the budget was one of disappointment, both from a local perspective and from a Scotland wide perspective.
The big ask from a local point of view was the UK Government to match the Scottish Government’s commitment to the Ayrshire Growth Deal. Never mind finance, the Ayrshire Growth Deal did not even get a mention. This is a real disappointment and only recently I challenged the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, with my concern he was prioritising a deal for the Borders - the Borderland Deal. Well my concerns were correct as the Chancellor name checked the Borderlands deal. Incredibly he announced a new package of city deals to be implemented for Northern Ireland which we can only assume is outside the £1bn already allocated as part of the DUP deal.
The Chancellor also refused to lift the public sector pay cap. This affects employees in Scotland and also means that given the Scottish Government have pledged to lift the pay cap, they need to do so on a reduced budget.
Granting a VAT exemption on the Scottish Police and Fire Services was long overdue and welcome. Remember they have granted exemptions for the National Crime Agency, Police Service Northern Ireland, Highways England and Academy Schools England then it was obvious this could have been done before now. Indeed the current Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Scotland previously voted against an SNP clause to a Finance Bill that would have provided the necessary exemption. To give the credit for the change to the new Scottish Tory MPs was laughable, but worryingly confirmation that the Tory UK Government were simply punishing an SNP Government and playing politics with our emergency services. This is further illustrated by the refusal to repay the money already paid to HMRC, £140m in total.
The only other Scottish policy announcement was one for the oil and gas sector, which is predicted to give the Treasury more money, so cannot be classed as any form of financial support.
So, despite being hailed as a Ruth Davidson fuelled giveaway for Scotland, we have been badly overlooked. Even the headline figure of £2bn of Barnett Consequentials has been shown not to stack up, with £1.1bn to be repaid to the Treasury.
Yet, he found £3bn in Brexit preparations to add to the £40bn they are now promising the EU and he found £3.2bn in stamp duty giveaways for first time buyers in England on properties up to £300k and £500k in London. There are already calls for the Scottish Government to follow suit, but how many first time buyers cannot get a house because they can afford a £300k mortgage but not the land and building tax? It is further proof how out of touch the Tory Government really is.
The Chancellor spoke for an hour, delivered well over 8,000 words and only about 100 (1%) directly covered Scotland. That in itself is probably testament to the real “power” of the additional 12 Scottish Tory MPs.