Commenting on the UK Spring Statement delivered by the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Today’s news from the OBR that the UK is expected to avoid a technical recession this year is welcome but at the same time, the cost of doing business continues to hold back firms from growing and investing.
“The Chancellor’s statement today highlighted a major challenge facing the economy and that is the ever-tightening labour market and the growing demand for skills. Finding skilled workers is one of the top issues for businesses and the lack of available talent is preventing businesses from meeting demand and expanding.
“Measures to support the domestic workforce such as free childcare and return to work schemes are welcome but are unlikely to shift the dial quickly enough to address the immediate gap in the marketplace.
“That’s why businesses still need an immigration system that is agile and flexible to the needs of the economy. We have repeatedly said over the last year that Government must reform the Shortage Occupation List to help firms fill urgent job vacancies when they cannot recruit locally. Addressing this will unlock growth in the economy.”
On energy support, Dr Liz Cameron said:
“Whilst energy prices have stabilised, it remains a major concern for firms. It is therefore disappointing that the scaling down of energy support for businesses is still set to go ahead. Support for charities and leisure centres is welcome but removing the broader support fails to recognise that energy costs will continue to hamper SMEs across the economy. We urge the Chancellor to revisit this.
“The Chancellor’s confirmation of a £20bn government support package for Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) is welcome but there is a lack of clarity on whether the North-East of Scotland’s Acorn scheme will be backed. Providing detail now will be essential if we are to achieve the UK’s ambitions to net-zero and decarbonisation.”
On measures announced for Scotland, Dr Liz Cameron said:
“The announcement that there will an investment zone for Scotland is welcome and has much potential. We ask both the Scottish & UK Government to work proactively and quickly to ensure Scotland’s businesses can mobilise and fully realise the benefits of the scheme.
“Scotland’s festivals and cultural offerings are globally renowned and the funding of over £8 million is a most welcome shot in the arm for a sector that continues to build back after the COVID-19 pandemic.”