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Budget reactions

Chancellor George Osborne with the famous red budget box.

ISLES MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed Wednesday’s budget as good news for “local businesses and local people”.

Carmichael, who as Scottish secretary is a member of the cabinet, said the coalition government has been successful in rebuilding the economy.

But Scottish finance secretary John Swinney condemned George Osborne’s budget for imposing another £12billion of cuts to Scotland’s public services.

Orkney and Shetland Labour candidate Gerry McGarvey meanwhile said that despite the tax giveaways announced in the budget the reality was that there would be a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than in the previous five years.

There was agreement across the party divide in welcoming measures to help the oil and gas industry in the North Sea.

Carmichael said the key measures in the budget include:

  • Increasing the income tax allowance over two years from £10,600 to £11,000;
  • Scrapping the planned fuel duty rise in September 2015;
  • Tax cuts for the oil and gas industry, particularly favouring mature oilfields in the northern North Sea and also giving encouragement to securing new fields;
  • Launching a consultation on electricity distribution costs, with the potential to lower energy bills in the north of Scotland.

He said: “When the coalition government came into office in 2010 we had an economy on the brink. We constructed and implemented a plan to bring public finances under control and to rebuild and rebalance our economy.

“It has not been easy but it was necessary and people can see it is working.

“Wages are increasing ahead of inflation and this week’s announcement of above average increases in the national minimum wage are made possible because we have a strong and growing economy.”

He added: “It is possible now to see beyond the difficult times of deficit reduction to a time when we can again start to make extra investments in vital services like the NHS.”

Energy and business minister, Matthew Hancock said the coalition was reforming the fiscal system for North Sea oil exploration by delivering significant tax breaks.

“We are also giving £20m fund to support exploration in the UK Continental Shelf to further explore the full potential of our natural asserts. This will lead to an increase of 15% production by the end of the decade,” he said.

Swinney said the budget revealed everything people needed to know about George Osborne’s values and priorities.

“The Chancellor had every opportunity to end the damaging cuts from the UK Government and has instead turned his back on investment in public services.

“We face the same £30 billion of unfair and unnecessary cuts today as we did yesterday.

“If we are to believe the Chancellor that the economy is making such a successful recovery, then there is no justification for the destructive cuts that impact on the most vulnerable in society.”

The Scottish Greens described Osborne’s ‘fantasy economy” as a fake.

MSP Patrick Harvie said: “This coalition has delivered five years of hacking away at the public good and at the foundations of our welfare state.

“It’s been a devastating and costly campaign by an elite in Westminster and the prospect of another round should terrify everyone who is fighting for social justice in this country.”