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Treasury Spending: Grants to Devolved Institutions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 3rd July 2018.

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Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 5:33 pm, 3rd July 2018

Of the homes that the Scottish Government are building, 35,000 are for social rent. The reality is that the Scottish Government have put in place a huge number of schemes to allow first-time buyers to get into the housing market, including joint purchase schemes, whereby people go into joint purchases with the Scottish Government. These measures have been incredibly successful in ensuring that people can get a foot on the housing ladder.

At Westminster, politics gets bleaker by the day. As the Tories hark back to the 19th century, our Scottish Government are pressing on with a forward-looking, 21st century agenda to boost innovation and the economy’s productive base. The Scottish Government have set aside resources of £340 million to provide initial capitalisation for the Scottish Investment Bank. Our Scottish Government do not have power over all the levers to generate economic growth, but we are doing what we can to ensure that our economy can keep pace.

In Scotland, 70% of taxpayers are paying less in income tax this year, assuming that their income has not changed. Some 50% of taxpayers in England—those who earn the least—are paying more income tax than they would if they were in Scotland. Despite all the cuts from Westminster—[Interruption.] I am being queried on this, but these are Library figures—I can send them on to Stephen Kerr if he is interested in seeing them. Despite all the cuts from Westminster, Scotland is the fairest-taxed part of the UK.

I want to touch briefly on oil and gas; as an Aberdeen MP, most people would expect me to do so. We welcome the UK Government’s move on transferable tax history. We pushed for that for a very long time—I have been raising it for about two years in this place—but it is coming along too slowly. The more quickly the transferable tax history changes can happen in relation to oil and gas, the better. I understand that they are intended to be in place in November this year. I very much urge the Government not to extend that deadline further back, because the quicker this can happen, the better. The changes ensure that new investment can be made in late-life assets in the North sea. It is really important that we ensure that this comes forward.

On investment in the North sea, I would very much like the UK Government to ensure that they are fully behind the Oil and Gas Authority’s “Vision 2035”. This is absolutely vital not just for the north-east of Scotland but, more widely, for any companies that are involved in oil and gas and for all the jobs that are supported by that. To be fair to Scottish Conservative Members, they have been very supportive of “Vision 2035” as well, but the more people who talk about it in this place and outside it, the better. We need to be talking about anchoring our supply chain in the north-east of Scotland and throughout the rest of the UK far into the future, so that even once there is no oil and gas left in the North sea, we continue to have that world-class, recognised supply chain and can continue to generate the tax revenues from it.

It would not be a debate in this Parliament if I did not raise Brexit. The threat of leaving the customs union and the single market is undoubtedly the biggest threat to Scotland’s economy, and so to the Scottish Government’s spending power. For the period 2014-20, Scotland received €476 million in European regional development fund money and €465 million in European social fund money. There has been no commitment from the UK Government that they will plug this gap in spending in Scotland after Brexit. In 2016, the EU common agricultural policy supported payments of £490 million in Scotland. Will the Government guarantee this money beyond 2022? Our farmers need to plan long term about how best to manage their land, and they need clear guarantees.

The convergence uplift moneys of €220 million—as I said, this was mentioned this morning—were supposed to go to people like Scottish hill farmers who are receiving the lowest levels of support in the EU. Unfortunately, because of the way that the UK Government decided to distribute the money, instead of more than 80% coming to Scotland, only 16% came to Scotland. I am very clear that that money should have come to our farmers in Scotland, yet it did not.