Friday, 25 March 2011

Alex Salmond responds to the Budget



Commenting on the UK Budget statement, Scotland's Finance Minister John
Swinney said:

"What is abundantly clear is that the Chancellor has used Scotland's North
Sea resources to fuel his Budget -- oil and gas revenues have hit an all
time record level, and are £4 billion up on the previous forecast -- and
has given far too little in return.

"Given that petrol prices have gone up by 16 pence a litre over the past
year alone, this windfall could and should be used to bring duty down not
by 1p but by 5 pence UK-wide -- or if they were applied in Scotland petrol
prices could come down by 50p.

"No wonder the Con/Dem coalition oppose financial responsibility for the
Scotland, and control of our own revenues.

"The Chancellor is wrong not to use this record bonanza to deliver
significantly lower fuel prices, rather than just applying a new levy for
a cut that is far too small.

"The Budget was also a major missed opportunity for the Chancellor to
reverse his swinging cuts in capital spending -- a 36 per cent cut in
Scotland over the spending period -- because the Scottish Government's
Economic Recovery Plan demonstrates that our investment in key
infrastructure projects is the driver of growth.

"While the Chancellor has had to downgrade his growth forecasts, in
Scotland we are building growth -- we are the only nation in the UK with
falling unemployment and rising employment. This Budget -- fuelled by
Scottish oil -- is a powerful illustration of why Scotland needs full
economic and financial responsibility, including borrowing powers, which
will be a major issue in the election campaign.

"We anticipated the Chancellor's announcement on Enterprise Zones, and
have already discussed the issue in government. If re-elected in May, the
SNP will establish four Enterprise Zones in Scotland -- we believe that the
geography and distinct circumstances of Scotland require us to have a
larger pro-rata number than England -- in addition to other innovative
measures we are delivering such as Tax Incremental Finance.

"We are already delivering major programmes to help small businesses and
first time buyers, and a record number of apprenticeships, and will at
least match the UK Government's announcements in these areas.

"We listened extremely carefully to the Chancellor's remarks about the
possibility of a lower Corporation Tax regime in Northern Ireland. We
agree with the Scottish Parliament's Scotland Bill Committee report that
if this happens in Northern Ireland, it should happen in Scotland too --
and financial responsibility is the guaranteed way to make this happen.

"It is extremely disappointing that the Chancellor failed to show any
determination to drive forward measures to tackle high strength, low
quality alcohol products -- confirming that the proper place for these
powers is the Scottish Parliament, and that we need to reintroduce minimum
pricing proposals in the next parliament.

"Also, the Chancellor was silent on Scotland's Fossil Fuel Levy -- we need
progress on this now, so that we can invest in infrastructure to support
the renewables technology of the future. The Green Investment Bank is a
separate issue, and if it is to be up and running in 2012 then the logical
home for it is Scotland -- a global renewables capital, with 10 times the
output of England on a pro-rata basis."

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Andy the Daft Hermit lives 45 minutes outside Inverness with his wife Mel in an old bus parked in a layby. This current home of theirs is the longest they have ever stayed in one spot. “I’ve been travelling now 25 years,” said Andy Lowe. “Mel’s been travelling 15. One of the reasons we’ve come and stayed up here is because of Mel’s health. I wanted to bring her to the mountains for fresh air and clean water and just a slower pace of life.” Mel has had breast cancer twice, skin cancer once, and for three years believed she had bone cancer after being wrongly diagnosed. Andy’s belief in the restorative powers of the north made them pack up ‘The Black Bus’ that they live in and cross the border into Scotland. New Highland home for hermit couple Andy and Mel “I think we both believe in trying to get to a more simple way of life,” said Andy, “but it’s strange for us because we are sort of hermits, or we like to live separate, but it’s not being anti-social… it’s just the way we are that allows us to be creative.” Andy first began travelling when he left the army. Fed up with bureaucracy he packed a rucksack and left for France and has been travelling ever since. By investing any money the couple have earned into solar panels and wind generators they now live a self-sustaining existence, without electric bills, and collect rain water “straight from Heaven”. “It’s not easy,” said Mel. “There might be time when there might not be enough facilities around, but you always find a way, you know?” Rather than rejecting technology, Andy blogs about his travels online and collaborates with artists from around the world via his ‘Scratchy Heid Film Studio’, which he runs from a static trailer next to the couple’s bus. He explained his philosophy: “My belief is that if you can go through life and you drop dead and you’ve got a balance there that slightly outweighs the good than the bad, you’ve done alright. “Yesterday, with what Mel’s been through with the cancer and all that, I had a woman on one of my sites there that thanked me for the writing, for the positive things, and to me that’s worth everything. You can keep your millions, we’re not interested. That is what we do.” To check out Andy’s artwork and video projects check out his website. MORE FROM THE NORTH

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