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INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT WELCOME BUT PUBLIC SPENDING NEEDS TO BE ABOUT DELIVERY

Commenting on the Draft Scottish Budget, announced today by the Scottish Government, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

“There is much to welcome about this draft budget from an economic perspective, but we believe that the Scottish Government has a long way to go if it is to deliver the long term reform of our public services that we require.

“On the positive side is the Government’s continued commitment to essential infrastructure projects such as the new Forth Road Bridge, Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, A96 improvements and M8 upgrade. Transport projects in particular will deliver long term economic benefits to Scotland and the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to this investment, against a background of declining capital budgets, is very welcome indeed. However alongside new investment, it is important to service and protect the transport assets we already have and we must ensure that this is not forgotten. There are ambitious plans for the Scottish Futures Trust to leverage revenue finance into capital projects and this is an important and welcome development.

“Less welcome is the news that large retailers are to face further pain through further increases in business rates. As if the abolition of transitional relief this year was not enough, this is a hammer blow to a sector that has been creating jobs in Scotland throughout the recession. We all want to see our town centres cherished and small, independent enterprises flourish, but the way to do this is through incentivisation not a further attack on business through non-domestic rates.

“Underlying all of this is the lesson we should be learning that essential public investment must never again be compromised by the overbearing consumption of resources that exists in the public sector. The creation of a Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services is perhaps a step in the right direction, but despite a variety of public service reforms announced by the Government in this draft budget, we are still nowhere near tackling the vast scale of inefficiency and lack of productivity that blights much of our public spending.

“The litmus test for every penny spent by our Government must be the return it delivers for our economy. Sadly much of the political debate in the Scottish Parliament following the budget statement continued to be about how much we spend in the public sector and not how well it delivers.”

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