6. To ask the Scottish Government what the impact has been on the economy of Aberdeen and the north-east of business uncertainty resulting from Brexit. (S5O-03073)
Brexit is already impacting the Scottish economy, with the associated uncertainty impacting business and consumer confidence and leading to increased stockpiling and reduced investment intentions.
We recently published a report showing that all areas in Scotland will be affected by Brexit, especially by a no-deal Brexit, with the north-east in particular being hit. The report showed specifically how the north-east and areas within the north-east would be hit.
Businesses in the north-east continue to live with uncertainty, none more so than the fish-processing sector, which is particularly concerned about licences for the trucks taking their fresh produce to markets on the continent. The sector’s justified concerns were compounded earlier this week when Michael Gove refused to fight for lorries with fresh produce to have preference in the queue. What advice does the cabinet secretary have for my constituents?
The Scottish Government’s resilience committee continues to meet. It is looking at a range of actions, including those on transport. However, our seafood sector will be severely impacted by disruption at ports, so it needs to find alternative transport routes to satisfy customs requirements. That will jeopardise the vital just-in-time nature of the seafood supply chain. Businesses in the seafood sector tell us that the cost of export health certificates and the breakdown of supply chains will lead to lay-offs and business failures. Although the Scottish Government is doing everything that it can to minimise the risk and mitigate the impact of Brexit, the damage to business and the unavoidable consequences of a no-deal Brexit are incredibly concerning, which is why we should avert Brexit at all costs.
When she was asked on “The Andrew Marr Show” how much of the £92 million no-deal Brexit fund was allocated to local authorities, Nicola Sturgeon was unable to answer. I therefore ask the cabinet secretary how much will be made available to cash-strapped councils in Scotland, given that money has been allocated to councils in England.
Local authorities south of the border got reductions in their budgets, whereas there was real-terms growth in local government budgets in Scotland. I did not ring fence or earmark funds to local government for Brexit purposes, and the Parliament and local government tell me not to do that kind of thing. The consequentials from Brexit moneys are part of the budget, as I explained when the budget was produced.
Local government is enjoying a real-terms increase, and the consequentials are part of its allocation, but I did not separate out a ring-fenced pot for Brexit. How local government spends its resources is up to it. The consequentials were part of the budget, and the local government part of the Scottish budget enjoyed a real-terms increase. That is what I did with the Barnett consequentials, and that is how they are helping local government.