John Lamont is Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Small Business Saturday

Did you take part in Small Business Saturday the weekend before last? It’s a great initiative, which encourages people in the run up to Christmas, to get out and shop locally. Last year, more than £740 million was spent in independent businesses on Small Business Saturday across the UK.

And it’s really important to support our local shops, because if you do not, they will be lost and our high streets will suffer. Small businesses employ over 1.2 million people in Scotland too, so they are the lifeblood of many local economy. If we all resist the urge to shop online a bit more and take advantage of the excellent local retailers we have here in the Borders, that would be a huge boost to businesses.

I used a question I had at Prime Minister’s Question Time recently to give a plug to some small businesses in the Borders (Lindsay Grieve, Stems the Florist and Archie Hume’s) and to support Small Business Saturday. It was good of the Prime Minister to respond with praise for local businesses and I’d be happy to host her in the Borders, if she ever gets a second to spare.

School Investment

I was pleased to see that Scottish Borders Council voted down attempts by some representatives to delay the process and has confirmed plans to build four new high schools in the Scottish Borders, including in Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk in my constituency.

Be under no doubt, this will be a huge boost to education in the Scottish Borders, which could potentially provide 8,000 young people with a brand new, state of the art learning environment, as part of a £344m investment programme.

As was likely to be the case, Galashiels Academy is the priority because of the condition of the school and the readiness of the plan to replace it. I am however pleased that Hawick and Selkirk will follow close behind and receive significant investment in the next few years.

Scottish Borders Council are getting their priorities right. They are investing to try to fix our roads after years of neglect, the local policing team is cracking down on anti-social behaviour and activity which directly affect residents and investing in our young people. These plans are the more impressive when you consider how much Scottish Borders Council’s budget has been cut by the Scottish Government in recent years

Tax Gap

Businesses in the Borders are already telling me that the fact that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the UK is having an effect on recruitment and retention of staff.

The tax cuts in the Chancellor’s recent budget will only make this gap worse unless the SNP take action. English workers won’t start paying the 40p tax rate until they earn over £50,000, whereas in Scotland a 41p rate will kick in at £43,430.

The point the Scottish Government don’t understand about higher taxes in Scotland is that it puts off the best and the brightest. An ambitious teacher looking to apply for a deputy head teacher role will look at Scotland and see they are going to be taxed at least £1,300 more.

This has the greatest implication for the Scottish Borders because of our proximity to England and will only make recruitment for NHS Scotland and Scottish Borders Council more difficult.