THE Scottish Government’s draft budget proposals announced today have attracted both praise and criticism.
Richard Lochhead MSP described the spending plans as great news for Moray.
He stated that they protect low and middle income earners and deliver for public services and public sector workers.
This afternoon Finance Secretary Derek Mackay laid his plans before the Scottish Parliament, which include reforms to Scotland’s income tax system.
Mr Lochhead said: "The Scottish Government proposals outlined by the Finance Secretary today are to be warmly welcomed with significant investment in the rollout of superfast broadband and investment in early years and childcare.
"I’m also pleased that the SNP Government has protected local authority budgets which will hopefully mean the Conservatives on Moray Council will now dump some of their more draconian proposals, such as cutting support for our children and schools.
"The changes to the income tax system will mean that the vast majority of Scots will save money, with every worker earning less than £33,000 paying less in tax next year, while protecting the public services that we all value.
"In Moray, we have one of the lowest wage economies in the country meaning a high number of households will benefit from the introduction of 19p tax rate.
"This budget really is great news for hard working families locally, particularly with the commitment to remove the public sector pay cap which will undoubtedly be music to the ears of the thousands of public sector workers in Moray.
"The workers who deliver our local services, who keep us safe and healthy, and who teach our children, are a key part of our communities and this is a well-deserved pay-rise for them after years of Tory austerity.
"Our local business community will also benefit from many of the measures proposed in this draft budget to support construction, skills and infrastructure.
"In the face of the challenges presented by a cut to Scottish Government funding, ongoing Tory austerity, and their extreme Brexit – this budget provides the investment we need to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities to protect local living standards in Moray and support our local economy."
But Moray’s Tory MP, Douglas Ross, saw things very differently to his SNP counterpart.
He said: "Moray has suffered for years from unfair treatment from the Scottish Government with badly-needed funds being directed to the Central Belt and away from the North East of Scotland.
"Because of this budget that unfairness will continue.
"Vital services, delivered by Moray Council, are facing drastic cuts because of continual cutbacks from Holyrood.
"This budget provided the Finance Minister Derek Mackay with a golden opportunity to right that wrong. However, he has turned his back on Moray and the result will be further cuts to the services local people rely on.
"To add insult to this injury thousands in Moray will now be paying more in tax in return for a reduction on money spent on our schools, social care, roads and refuse collection."
Mr Ross added: "What a contrast with the UK Government’s budget which saw £2 billion delivered to Scotland, a freeze in whisky duty, provided a major boost to the oil and gas industry and scrapped VAT on Scotland’s emergency services."