Thursday, 23 April 2009

Budget is Highland & Island Unfriendly - Gibson

Press Notice: Immediate Use

Highland and Island unfriendly is how SNP MSP Rob Gibson summed up the Wednesday's budget.

The Highlands and Islands MSP was commenting after Alasdair Darling announced hikes in duty for fuel and whisky coupled with swingeing cuts to the Scottish Government spending budget and a question mark over where funding for renewable projects such as developments in the Pentland Firth wave and tidal opportunities.

Mr Gibson said….

"There is very little to cheers people or business in the Highlands and Islands."

"Yet again a Chancellor in London has hit the vital industry of whisky with a 2p increase whilst penciling in a 3p rise of fuel over the next year. In short this budget takes more than it gives from the Highland economy."

"The Chancellor has hit the main export from the Highlands and Islands yet again and this time it will be most keenly felt because of the recession. The SNP Government has raised the international profile of whisky as the First Minister did on a recent trip to China, then inexplicably the UK Government target the industry unfairly. This point was rammed home by Gerry O'Donnell director of The Famous Grouse at a reception I hosted in Parliament last night. A collaboration with the RSPB to safeguard the Black Grouse attracts 50p from every bottle of Black Grouse whisky. It does not deserve to fail."

"One criticism of previous Chancellors is that they didn't fully appreciate the price of fuel in remote and rural areas. That cannot be said of the current one who was shocked by the price of a litre of petrol during a recent holiday in the Western Isles. Why therefore did he decide to push through a 2p rise in fuel duty plus an extra percent each subsequent year on the people and businesses of the Highlands and Islands is beyond me."

"However it is sure that this will hinder Highland and Islands firms from emerging from the recession. People who live in remote and rural areas who need their cars more, will also pay more for their fuel and will suffer disproportionately ."

"The news of investment in offshore wind and renewable sector are good news however the Budget is opaque as to where that money will go. If the Labour Party are honest in their commitment to both the Highlands and renewable energy then I expect to see massive investment in the Pentland Firth. As well as ending the step transmission charging regime which makes it far more expensive to produce renewable energy in the North and West than it does in the South."


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