SNP reaction to the Autumn Statement 2015: Chancellor George Osborne's actions will hurt Scottish business

 
Hannah Bardell
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Europe's Largest Onshore Wind Farm Is Switched On
Scotland's budget will be cut 5.7 per cent in real terms over the next five years (Source: Getty)

As we start to pick over the detail of the Autumn Statement it would be easy for many to think the chancellor has pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat – although as one journalist put it yesterday, “his 'rabbit out of the hat' was to shoot the last rabbit".

Today’s papers seem to hail an end to austerity – yet as the chancellor said himself, there will still be £12bn of welfare cuts, despite his U-turn on tax credits. The SNP had been a united voice on this from the outset, and while Labour was ready to run up the white flag on tax credits and move to mitigation mode, the SNP wholeheartedly opposed them every step of the way.

Many are celebrating the continuation of business rates relief - a policy the SNP has pioneered in Scotland since 2007.

Read more: Osborne says independent Scotland would've cut more

But policies such as the Apprenticeship Levy are being criticised by much of the business community. As I did the media merry-go-round yesterday one company director spoke of his concerns at the disincentive it would create. The CBI are telling us it’s the "sting in the tail" of the Autumn Statement - and let’s be frank, if the chancellor really wants to "get Britain back to work", creating a disincentive for medium and large companies to train and develop talent is not good for the economy.

Many of the cuts will be falling on non-ring fenced departments such as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – cuts to which will have a consequence to the financial settlements of the devolved administrations, in particular Scotland. We now know Scotland’s budget will be cut by 5.7 per cent in real terms over five years, this after a nine per cent cut over the last five years.

Read more: What does the Autumn Statement mean for you?

One such cut to the energy budget is in the form of the £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology competition, a mere six months before it was due to be awarded.

Peterhead power station and the White Rose scheme in North Yorkshire were the bidders in the competition. The energy company Drax had announced in September it was abandoning plans to introduce CCS technology in North Yorkshire but plans at Peterhead were developing well.

The government tried to sneak out the announcement in a stock market statement while Osborne was on his feet, with no opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny at all. This will also the third time Peterhead has had promises made and withdrawn at the last minute. A damning indictment of the government's energy policy and a broken manifesto pledge for the Tories - this would have been a world-leading project.

The devil in this autumn statement is starting to emerge.

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