Financial support for Scotland’s food and drink industry, as well as, funding for gigabit-capable broadband has been welcomed by Scottish Land & Estates (SLE).

The rural business organisation also said it was pleased tax relief on red diesel for agricultural business had been retained in the March 11, 2020, Budget at Westminster.

‘Positive announcements’

“There are many positive announcements in the budget to help Scotland’s rural economy,” said Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of SLE.

“We welcome further funding to promote Scottish food and drink overseas and given the current economic uncertainty, we were pleased to see fuel duty – which is particularly pertinent to rural workers travelling longer distances – frozen for another year.

Whilst we acknowledge the long-term need to move to cleaner fuels, it is also good news for Scottish farming that tax relief on red diesel for agriculture will be retained.

“The chancellor [of the exchequer] announced £5 billion to get gigabit-capable broadband into the hardest-to-reach places in the UK, as well as £510 million in the shared rural mobile phone network.

“Those living in Scotland’s rural communities will be delighted by this announcement but we await the detail of how this will actually be delivered.

“An improved communications network is something which is long-overdue and requires a cooperative approach from both governments, telecoms providers and other stakeholders,” Laing said.

Relief for Scottish businesses?

SLE added that it would be keen to see what action the Scottish Government plans to take regarding non-domestic rates, following the announcement from the chancellor, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Laing continued: “The chancellor said that eligible retail, leisure or hospitality businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 will pay no business rates in the next financial year.

“This is welcome news for businesses south of the border, but also raises the question of what relief Scottish businesses will receive during the coronavirus crisis.

“If left unchanged in Scotland, our businesses – including shops, hotels and accommodation in rural areas – will face a huge competitive disadvantage. We would urge the Scottish Government to consider what help it can provide as soon as possible,” Laing concluded.