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UK Budget: Scotch whisky and coronavirus measures welcomed across the board in Moray

By Jonathan Clark

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A FREEZE in Scotch whiksy duty and money set aside to help deal with coronavirus have been welcomed by both the SNP and the Conservatives in Moray after the UK budget was announced.

Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP, said the budget was a "mixed bag", while Douglas Ross, Moray's Tory MP, said it "delivers for Moray, Scotland and the whole of the UK".

Douglas Ross said: "Decisions taken by the Conservative government at Westminster mean the SNP Scottish Government block grant will grow by almost £2 billion, which is the largest year-on-year real-terms funding increase for the Scottish Government in a decade.

Douglas Ross at the Houses of Parliament
Douglas Ross at the Houses of Parliament

"It’s now up to the SNP Scottish Government to spend this money wisely and deliver for our communities, rather than concentrating all their efforts on the central belt and criticising the UK Government.

"This is a budget that delivers for Moray, Scotland and the whole of the UK."

Richard Lochhead said there were a number of positives, but the budget failed to reverse "cruel" laws and austerity.

He said: "This budget is a mixed bag with some potentially helpful measures if the details lives up to the headlines, but it fails to reverse a decade of austerity that the Conservatives have presided over.

"The budget fails to halt the roll out of universal credit or to scrap the cruel two-child limit and the rape clause, and overall Scotland’s budget is still lower this year than it was ten years ago."

The budget was the first for chancellor Rishi Sunak, with Scotland set to receive £640 million in additional funding. Other measures promised include freezing whisky duty, £10m over three years to help distilleries go green, an increase in 4G coverage in Scotland from 42 per cent to 74 per cent and trials for 5G mobile networks.

Douglas Ross MP said freezing whisky duty was key. He added: "The freeze in whisky duty is something I have campaigned hard for since I was first elected in 2017 and it was important to ensure we delivered this measure again this year. Along with the announcement of a wider review on spirits duty, the budget has delivered key asks from distilleries in Moray and the Scotch whisky industry.

"It was also good to have Moray mentioned in the budget when the chancellor outlined plans to work with producers to help de-carbonise distilling with a £10 million fund to research alternative methods of production. I know the whisky industry is ready to meet this challenge and our outstanding distilleries based in Moray will play a huge role in this."

Richard Lochhead MSP was also pleased with the promise to freeze whisky duties, but lamented high tax rates from the UK government and tarriffs on whisky and shortbread.

He said: "I welcome the freeze in duty for Scotch, but there is no escaping the fact that the industry in Speyside remains a cash cow for the UK Treasury given it is taxed at 72 per cent.

Richard Lochhead MSP at Dallas Dhu Distillery.
Richard Lochhead MSP at Dallas Dhu Distillery.

"The debate over whisky duty in this budget is nothing compared to the impact of the 25 per cent US tariff that remains in place for whisky, shortbread and other products. The UK government must take this more seriously."

Another point of agreement was on subject-of-the-day coronavirus, but Richard Lochhead was keen to know how much money will be set aside for Scotland.

He said: "I am pleased to see the UK Government’s economic response to coronavirus but we need confirmation from the Treasury as to what this will mean for Scotland."

Douglas Ross added: "This budget comes at an extremely difficult time for the country and I’m pleased the government is supporting individuals and small businesses who are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak."

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