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Chancellor asked to extend business support ahead of budget

By Louise Glen

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Drew Hendry MP
Drew Hendry MP

A HIGHLAND MP has called on the UK Government to extend business support for as long as necessary.

Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, is calling on a fiscal stimulus of at least £98billion, as well as extend the furlough scheme and the buisness rates holiday now, instead of waiting until the budget in March.

Mr Henry who is the SNP's business spokesman in the UK parliament, has repeated calls for the chancellor to confirm he will extend business support for as long as necessary – and to do so ahead of the budget – after the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said businesses cannot wait two months for clarity.

In its budget submission to chancellor Rishi Sunak, the CBI said businesses cannot be expected to wait nearly two months to know whether support will be extended and called for the UK government to announce an extension to the furlough scheme and business rates holiday before the statement is made to parliament in March.

In response, Mr Hendry said the chancellor must confirm without delay that the schemes will be extended for as long as necessary, hand over the missing £375million promised to Scottish firms, devolve financial powers to the Scottish Government, and deliver a meaningful fiscal stimulus of at least £98billion.

The call comes exactly a week after figures revealed retailers suffered their worst annual sales performance on record in 2020 - and after warnings from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) that a quarter of a million small businesses could be forced to close this year due to a lack of government support

Mr Hendry said: “The SNP has consistently called for the chancellor to extend business support for as long as necessary – and to do so in enough time to allow businesses to plan and prepare. We cannot have another eleventh hour announcement from the Tory government that could cripple even more businesses.

“UK ministers’ dithering and half-hearted support has already jeopardised many firms and local businesses, and done nothing to stem the tide of rising unemployment. It is time they took their heads out of the sand, showed some leadership and do what needs to be done to save businesses and protect livelihoods."

He continued: "The UK government must extend the furlough scheme and business rates holiday for as long as necessary, hand over the missing £375million it promised Scottish firms, and follow the example of other countries by delivering a fiscal stimulus package of at least £98billion

"There must also be meaningful support to boost incomes and help the growing number of unemployed people. That must include support for the 3million excluded and a permanent uplift to Universal Credit and legacy benefits - so that no one is left behind.

"The Tory government has withheld investment and blocked the devolution of financial powers throughout this crisis - leaving Scotland to respond with one hand tied behind its back. Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act. The only way to protect Scotland's interests, and secure a strong and fair recovery, is to become an independent country."

Read more about Mr Hendry here.

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