There was a lot of good news for the north-east in the Chancellor’s Budget.
Rishi Sunak maintained the huge level of government support for workers and businesses across the UK by extending the furlough and self-employment support schemes until 30 September.
The reduced 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism will go on for another six months, while the Universal Credit uplift will also continue for the same period.
The Scottish Government will receive an extra £1.2billion for its budget for the year ahead, which will help to protect our NHS and schools. This comes on top of the £9.7billion already provided to Holyrood for Covid support and the additional £2.4billion announced at last year’s Spending Review.
The Budget also contained a huge vote of confidence in the north-east energy sector and our ambition to become a centre of excellence for energy transition – a concept which is crucial to national net-zero targets.
There will be £27million of investment in the Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone, a further £5million for the development of a Global Underwater Hub and an initial £2million for the North Sea Transition Deal.
Alcohol duty was frozen – for the second year in a row – in a move that will boost our local whisky, gin and craft beer producers.
And the fuel duty freeze will save motorists at the pump – and will particularly benefit our hauliers and exporters.
Elsewhere, first time homebuyers can benefit from a mortgage guarantee with a deposit of just 5%, and under the ‘super deduction’ policy, there will be a 130% first year capital allowance for businesses investing in qualifying machinery.
The Chancellor proved, once again, that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the whole United Kingdom through this crisis and help our economy to bounce back as quickly as possible.
On more local issues, I have written to the NHS Grampian chief executive to confirm the re-opening of Turriff Hospital but also to ask when we might expect the Minor Injury Unit to reopen.
As Advertiser readers will be aware, the MiU was shut at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year, along with the MiU at Chalmer’s Hospital in Banff.
I understood the rationale for doing so, which was largely to protect staff and avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
However, a year on, people are still having to travel from the Turriff area to Fraserburgh, Huntly or Aberdeen for minor injuries.
That is not acceptable as a long-term solution and I see no reason why we cannot now have a timetable for reopening the MiU in Turriff .
I have always campaigned to protect local health facilities in Banff and Buchan, and I do not want to see any downgrading in Turriff or anywhere else. These facilities provide a vital service and must be maintained.
I have also raised the question of whether the hospital might be used as a vaccination centre in the coming months.
I understand that was the original plan before the Covid outbreak at the hospital in December.
I have said on many occasions that it was unfair that people living around Turriff – particularly south of the town in places like Fyvie – were found to make a 40-mile round trip to Aberdeen to get their jabs.