Independence is the only way Scotland can properly create opportunities and secure the investment in public services and the economy Scotland needs, Scotland’s Finance Secretary John Swinney said yesterday, following the UK Chancellor’s final budget before the referendum.
Commenting on the latest projections from the Office of Budget Responsibility and the Chancellor’s claims on North Sea oil, Mr Swinney said:
“Westminster and those opposed to independence cannot simultaneously accept in full the Wood Report with its projections of higher production and at the same time cite the OBR forecasts of lower revenues from declining production.
“Increased investment in the North Sea will lead to increased production with a further 24 billionn barrels of oil still to come from the North Sea.”
Paul McCullagh, the CEO of Glasgow-based UrbanWind, said:
“A freeze on the Carbon Price Floor demonstrates a further eroding of the Government’s commitment to renewable energy, and is a further blow to the UK’s climate commitments. It is a step backwards in the process of facilitating the transition from coal energy to cleaner options such as wind.
“Given increasing uncertainty worldwide over the security of gas and oil supplies, this will not help us in moving away from a reliance on imported fossil fuel, and the additional risks that we carry by remaining to do so.
“It is vital that the government gives clear direction to investors, and sets out a robust, confident plan for tackling climate change. This backing down over a tax that has only been in place for two years will undermine investor confidence in the sector, at a time when renewable energy in Britain needs predictable policy to allow it to continue to grow“.
Commenting on the 2014 Budget, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scottish policy convenor, Andy Willox, said:
“As the recovery gathers steam, our members tell us that they’re ready to grow. Yesterday’s Budget offered a clear signal to business that the UK Government wants to support this objective. A sustainable recovery won’t be built on the shaky foundations of consumer debt. Rather, it has to built on investment and, by doubling the Annual Investment Allowance, the Chancellor has shown that he understands this.”
On energy he said:
“Our members will closely scrutinise the proposals to give some relief to businesses facing spiralling energy costs, though we still need to see more competition in this marketplace and more protection for small private sector consumers.”
And on fuel and roads he said:
“Many small businesses will be relieved that the Chancellor is keeping fuel duty in check. The FSB in Scotland will also be asking the Scottish Government if they plan to replicate the pothole cash pot. Too many of our local roads are poorly maintained which, although great news for anyone in the tyre and exhaust business, drives up overheads for any business that is regularly on the road.”
Chief Executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce Robert Collier said:
“Members of the Chamber were keen to hear a Budget focused on business growth and job creation, so they will have welcomed many of the measures announced yesterday.
“They will welcomed confirmation of a fuel duty freeze, the scrapping of the alcohol duty escalator and the increase in the Annual Investment Allowance as measures which will encourage growth.
“The Chamber had called for more clarity on how the recommendations in the Wood Review will be implemented, so we were glad of the new field allowances for oil and gas operators and look forward to the Autumn statement when the Chancellor will outline in more detail how the fiscal regime will be used to incentivise exploration and production in the UKCS.
“We are sure that Chamber members will also be pleased that civil servants will soon commence the recruitment process for the Chief Executive Designate for the new oil and gas regulatory body.
“If the UK Government is to maximise the economic return of oil and gas, it is important that the Wood Review recommendations are acted upon with urgency and the fact that the initial process to set up the new arms-length body has begun should be welcomed.”
The UK Green Building Council has criticised the Chancellor for squandering the opportunity to cut household energy bills with no additional measures to encourage energy efficiency in yesterday’s Budget.
John Alker, Director of Policy and Communications at UK-GBC, said:
“Any real hope that the Chancellor is committed to the green agenda faded long ago but what remains deeply disappointing is that he doesn’t recognise a growth opportunity when he sees one. There continues to be a complete blind spot on the role that energy efficiency has to play in reducing consumer bills over the long-term, and generating home-grown jobs.
“A one-off £15 cut to household bills will be quickly forgotten – what is needed is long-term incentives to reduce the demand for energy in the first place.
“Hoped for clarity on zero carbon homes and non-domestic buildings was also conspicuous by its absence. With energy bills £800 less than the average home, you would have thought Government would want to shout about this policy from the roof-tops. Sadly, the future of Allowable Solutions still remains unclear.”
Chancellor George Osborne has hailed the role of renewables and energy efficiency in reducing energy costs – but risks undermining investment in renewables by freezing the Carbon Price Floor.
Responding, REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska said:
“We welcome the Chancellor’s acknowledgement that the way to bring down energy costs over the long-term is to invest in home-grown energy sources, including renewables, as well as energy efficiency.
“The Budget’s acknowledgement of a need to ‘reform and strengthen’ the EU Emissions Trading System is also welcome. But the new, short-term measures announced today in the energy sector do not reflect this ambition – and there is much more in this Budget to please fossil fuel companies than the green economy.
“By freezing the Carbon Price Floor, the Chancellor is rowing back on his own policy and once again moving the goalposts for investors in green energy.
“Government must explain in black and white how investment in renewables is protected from the freeze, or risk undermining the investment required to replace ageing coal power stations with technologies that can keep the lights on without damaging the climate.”
Energy UK said:
“The energy industry supports families, businesses and communities and is playing a key role in the recovery of the UK economy through investment, jobs and competition. In the overall interests of the UK the energy industry supports capping the carbon price floor to keep costs down for heavy industrial energy users, to reduce the potential to create a cliff edge for coal generation and to help make sure there is more capacity available.
“But it also has downsides – an important one is that it worsens the economics of the essential generation of electricity from gas.
“Energy is complex and complicated and you cannot move one piece without a knock-on effect across the board. Clear and stable policy is required to get the investment flowing to start building our secure energy future now; bring new gas plant on stream to meet demand; provide the back-up needed for intermittent renewable generation; and create jobs.
“To get there we need a mature discussion, across all parties and with the public, about how the UK balances the cost of renewables and the impact on our bills with future security and continuing investment in jobs and technology.”
•Also see the piece from Oil & Gas
‘Oil & Gas UK supports positive fiscal moves for North Sea but is perplexed by move against drilling rigs’