The Borders’ two MPs have welcomed this week’s UK Government autumn budget as offering potential to give the region’s economy a boost.
Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell pushed for a Borderlands growth deal to be included in the Conservatives’ summer election manifesto, and he said he was delighted to hear the Chancellor of Exchequer, Philip Hammond, vow that detailed negotiations are about to begin on the deal.
Mr Mundell, also Scottish secretary, said: “This is a budget that has delivered for the economy of the south of Scotland, and I particularly welcome the announcement from the Chancellor that detailed discussions are going to begin on a Borderlands growth deal.
“This has the potential to hugely boost the local economy, and it is vitally important we continue to strengthen our links with our neighbours across the border in the coming years.
“I am absolutely committed to delivering a significant Borderlands growth deal for my constituents and will do all I can to make it a reality as soon as possible.”
He added: “I also welcome the continuation of the fuel duty freeze, for the seventh year running, from the Chancellor, which is great news for the rural economy.
“This is welcome news for motorists and businesses across Tweeddale, and keeping fuel costs low has always been a priority for me as a rural MP.
“Bringing jobs and investment to my constituency will always be my top priority, and this is a budget that delivers on that front.
“From support for city deals and some of our finest charities to landmark tax measures on oil and gas and whisky, this budget backs Scotland’s great industries.
“This is in addition to the £2bn of extra spending power the Scottish Government will have as a result of this budget.”
Fellow Conservative John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, agrees, saying: “This is a budget full of good news for Scotland.
“I’m pleased the UK Government has decided to sort out the mess created by the SNP over the VAT bill for Police Scotland.
“The confirmation that the UK Treasury is backing a new Borderlands growth deal has enormous potential for the Scottish Borders. I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties to ensure that this delivers for local infrastructure, transport and tourism in particular.
“A freeze in whisky duty was one of my key asks from this budget, and it is great that the three new distilleries soon to open in the Borders will be receiving this boost.
“And with the Scottish Government receiving a £2bn boost to its budget, there is now no excuse to punish hard-working families with tax rises.”
Today’s budget has also been welcomed by the cross-border council chiefs hoping to benefit from the Borderlands growth deal.
Tweeddale East councillor Shona Haslam, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said after hearing the budget: “Sustainable economic growth and encouraging more people to visit, live and work are shared objectives for all the Borderlands partners, and today’s announcement is an important next step towards achieving potentially significant funding for the region.
“For the Scottish Borders, the Borderlands initiative, the Edinburgh and south east Scotland city region deal and the development of the south of Scotland enterprise agency can all help to support and drive inclusive growth, investment and improved infrastructure.”
Karen Betts, the Scotch Whisky Association’s chief executive, added: “The freeze in duty is a welcome first step in securing a more competitive tax for Scotch whisky in our home market.
“Looking ahead, the industry needs further support if it is to flourish at home and abroad.
“The tax burden on the average-priced bottle of Scotch whisky remains 80%, and we look forward to working with MPs to secure a fairer, more competitive tax system for strategically important domestic industries like Scotch whisky.”