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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 20:36 GMT
Mixed reaction to pre-Budget report
Gordon Brown in the House of Commons
Gordon Brown delivered the report on Tuesday
Business leaders, elderly groups, unions and opposition parties in Scotland have given a mixed reaction to Gordon Brown's pre-Budget report.

During his statement at Westminster on Tuesday, the chancellor announced a raft of measures aimed at boosting the economy and social services.

CBI Scotland and Age Concern welcomed moves for targeted tax concessions but both said more still needed to be done.

The Scottish National Party and the Conservatives both said that Labour was still failing to deliver on its pledges to better public services.

The chancellor has missed yet another opportunity to resolve the problem of older people who do not claim benefits

Maureen O'Neill, Age Concern
CBI Scotland Director Ian McMillan praised the chancellor for delivering a "sensible and supportive" package at a time of economic uncertainty.

He said: "Scottish business would be particularly pleased that Mr Brown is pressing ahead with tax credits to boost innovation and encourage training.

"Even though he may turn out to be somewhat optimistic about economic prospects for next year, he has avoided a damaging increase in taxes simply to meet previously announced fiscal targets."

Mr McMillan also welcomed the proposal to "simplify red tape for smaller firms" and said that "business has suffered greatly from rising bureaucracy and business tax rises in recent Budgets".

The Forum of Private Business in Scotland said the pre-Budget report was "unlikely to make any big difference for small firms" and demonstrates the government's lack of understanding of their problems.

'Lost opportunities'

The forum's campaign manager, Bill Anderson, said: "We couldn't in the circumstances expect a business bonanza from Gordon Brown.

"We're pleased at some of the measures he has announced but less pleased at what he did not do - the lost opportunities if you like."

The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) said it would be looking carefully at the report in the days ahead but welcomed moves to help rural communities suffering in the wake of foot-and-mouth disease.

Vehicle excise duty for agriculture has been abolished
NFUS legal and technical committee chairman John Smith said: "The extension of the abolition of vehicle excise duty to all agricultural vehicles is a significant announcement."

He also said that the introduction of a new low rate of duty for bio-diesel was a "step in the right direction" but would not make the growing of "energy crops" any more viable.

The Freight Transport Association welcomed news that foreign vehicles would be charged for using UK roads but said the announcement was "small beer" compared to the fuel concessions enjoyed on the continent.

Elderly groups gave a measured reaction to various announcements on plans to help pensioners.

Age Concern Scotland's director Maureen O'Neill said the chancellor still "failed to see the importance of increasing the basic state pension to a level sufficient to live on".

Older people

She said: "We welcome the bulk of the chancellor's announcements, including the commitment to increase the minimum income guarantee, the help for pensioners with modest earnings and savings, and the commitment to increase the pension by a minimum amount each year, but it is still not enough.

"The chancellor has missed yet another opportunity to resolve the problem of older people who do not claim benefits.

"Pensioners are entitled to share in the wealth of the country, and the basic state pension is the most effective way of reaching the poorest pensioners.

Liz Duncan:
Liz Duncan: "Means testing"
"They should not have to go cap in hand to the government for means-tested benefits. Too many older people miss out on help they should get by right."

Liz Duncan of Help the Aged said: "The chancellor's big idea, the pension credit, whilst apparently generous, is complex and arbitrary and draws half of our older population into means testing.

"We remain unconvinced that this is the right way forward."

Public service union Unison welcomed the "extra cash for the NHS and the commitment to the principles that public funding is best for Britain".

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said: "Those two announcements should go some way to restore confidence that our health service will receive significant amounts of investment.

'Enormous damage'

"But it is vital that steps are taken to ensure that the cash reaches frontline care as soon as possible."

Labour's political opponents north of the border said the pre-Budget report would do nothing to improve public services.

The Scottish National Party's Westminster group leader Alex Salmond said: "Stripped of the spin, all of Gordon Brown's Budgets and pre-Budget statements have been exposed as a fraud, and this one is no different.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond: "A fraud"
"The reality is that public investment in the UK - on health, education, transport, and housing - has fallen under New Labour, just as it fell under the Tories.

"Gordon Brown has still not undone the enormous damage of sticking to Tory spending plans during the first years of New Labour."

The Conservative's Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Jacqui Lait, said: "Every year Labour has made promises, but the Scottish public is still waiting for delivery.

"Despite all the promises, all the tax increases, all the hype and hyperbole, services like health, education and transport have got worse over the last four years.

"With new job losses in Scotland announced almost daily, Scottish businesses, both large and small, will be disappointed by Gordon Brown's failure to reduce the burden of tax and red tape."

BBC Scotland's Hayley Millar
"September 11 has proved a tough challenge for Gordon Brown"
See also:

27 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Brown commits to NHS spending boost
27 Nov 01 | Business
Brown pressed to give green Budget
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