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We’re gearing up for the Chancellor’s budget statement next week. With SNP colleagues I’ve attended a series of meetings with business groups and civic society organisations to get their thoughts on what the UK Government needs to do to address the economic damage of Covid. I’ll be on the virtual front bench for the SNP on one of the budget debate days. It’s safe to assume we’ll be looking for much better support for people on the lowest incomes, investment in the “green economy” to address the climate change emergency, and proper support to get businesses back on their feet when Covid restrictions are relaxed.

The serious delay to the UK budget meant the Scottish Government didn’t have all the information it needed when it had to announce its budget. Despite this, Scotland’s budget includes a funding boost for the police, record funding for the NHS including increased spending on mental health services, and increased funding to address the scandal of child poverty. I also welcome the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to a proper living wage for all its employees.

I spoke in support of an Opposition Day debate calling for better support for businesses and individuals who have been worst affected by Covid restrictions. A lot of smaller businesses have had to take on hefty loans and it will be a long time before most of them are able to pay these off. I’ve called on the Government to change the rules on these loans so that businesses can focus on getting back to work rather than having to worry about repaying the banks. A previous UK Government spent huge amounts of our money bailing out banks who were responsible for the financial crash. It seems only fair to provide the same support for millions of small businesses who are being hit by a crisis that wasn’t their fault.

I’m keen to hear from local retailers about what further support they need to get back in business when Covid restrictions start to be eased. I’m setting up a “round table” specifically for traders in the Kingdom Centre in Glenrothes which I know works in a slightly different way from other local centres. I warmly welcomed the Scottish Government’s confirmation that the Rates “holiday” for retailers has been extended into the next financial year.

A big well done this week to my constituency team who reached the milestone of £500,000 recovered on behalf of constituents. This includes some genuinely life changing wins for people who had been in desperate financial circumstances. We usually err on the side of caution when we record these wins so the actual amount the team has put back into constituents’ pockets is probably quite a bit higher. And of course they also deal with hundreds of cases that don’t have a direct financial impact.

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