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Column: Freeze on alcohol duty welcome but windfall tax extension disappointing

By Douglas Ross

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This week has been the UK budget and there was an awful lot in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s budget that I campaigned for and wholeheartedly support.

Tim Eagle MSP (right) with Douglas Ross and Chris Butler-Stroud and Alison Rose from the dolphin centre.
Tim Eagle MSP (right) with Douglas Ross and Chris Butler-Stroud and Alison Rose from the dolphin centre.

In particular – being the MP representing more distilleries than anyone else in the House of Commons – spirts duty is always high on my agenda in talks with the Chancellor. I was pleased in this budget the Chancellor again froze the duty on all alcohol as without this move it would have risen in August, it is now frozen until 2025.

As I say, the budget contained many positive announcements, but I can’t hide my disappointment that the Windfall tax on Oil and Gas companies has been extended for a further year. In fact I didn’t even try to hide my frustrations about this. We’ve got to a point where most politicians only ask for things they know are going to happen so they look good when it’s announced. It’s something every party does and most voters can see right through it.

When well-placed sources started suggesting the Windfall Tax could be extended I thought it must be a distinct possibility but I was determined to go in and oppose this in the strongest possible terms. Senior ministers were left in no doubt of my views and ultimately I believe that is the job of a representative. We may not win every single argument, but surely it is better to have tried and failed, than not to have tried at all.

Away from the budget it’s been great to see how my newest colleague at Holyrood, Tim Eagle, has settled into his role representing the Highlands and Islands as Scotland’s newest MSP. I’ve worked with Tim for many years – including when he was a Moray Councillor - and he is a great addition to our benches in the Scottish Parliament.

I was delighted that I was able to join him on his first visit in the region as an MSP when we visited the Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay. It was great to meet Alison Rose the manager again and Chris Butler-Stroud, the Chief Executive Officer of WDC.

We could see the improvements they have made to the centre which were officially unveiled a few weeks ago that are already attracting lots of visitors. If you’ve never been before or are thinking about going again, I would thoroughly recommend it. The improvements really add to the experience and I know the thousands of visitors who will head to the centre will have a great time, just like Tim and I did.

Finally, the Save our Surgeries campaign for the GP practices in Burghead and Hopeman is heading to Parliament after I’ve secured a debate in Holyrood on the closures and the fantastic campaign that local residents have fought.

Their message has hit the headlines locally and nationally and it’s right their voice is heard in the Scottish Parliament. It has been clear from the public meetings and the huge numbers that have supported the petition against these closures that we need to protect local healthcare facilities. I look forward to presenting their arguments in Holyrood and listening to what Scottish Ministers say.

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