As I have mentioned, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has regular engagement with the Scottish Government’s Finance Minister. They discussed matters relating to the Scottish Government’s budget for 2017-18 at a joint Exchequer committee in November, and at a Finance Ministers’ quadrilateral in February.
Colleagues are rightly focused on tax and competitiveness. The increased tax powers delivered through the Scotland Act 2016 mean that the Scottish Government have responsibility for raising more of what they spend. It is for them to decide how to use those tax powers to shape Scotland’s economy, growth and jobs. I might not like their plans to make Scotland a higher-tax nation—it is up to them—but they have to explain those plans to the people they represent.
The publication of this year’s draft Scottish budget had to be delayed because the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not make financial information available until the autumn statement. What impact will the move to the autumn Budget have on the Scottish Government’s ability to plan effectively for their budget process?
There are many good reasons for moving to a single fiscal event in the autumn—allowing for longer-term planning is one of them. On the subject of planning for the long term and increasing certainty, I would add that taking the threat of a second referendum off the table is the single biggest thing that the SNP and the Scottish Government could do for certainty and confidence among the business community.