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Lobby group sets out election manifesto

CBI Scotland demands business rates reform and tax ‘roadmap’

Hugh AitkenCBI Scotland is demanding the next government at Holyrood reforms business rates and provides a “clear tax roadmap” to show how it intends to drive growth.

Firing the opening salvoes in the election campaign, the business lobby group said it wants the new regime to invest in transport and skills but has identified an overhaul of business rates as its number one priority to ensure Scotland remains competitive.

Publishing its manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections, the CBI Scotland points out that the UK government responded to widespread criticism of the current business rates system in England by ordering a review. This week the Chancellor committed the Westminster government to devolving power for business rates to local authorities south of the border.

The CBI warns that unless the next Scottish government ensures its business rates are competitive with the rest of the UK, it risks losing its reputation as “a great place in which to do business.”

Hugh Aitken (pictured), CBI Scotland director, said:Business wants to make Scotland the place to be by attracting more talent, investment and ambition to one of the most exciting and promising countries in the world.

“By making our business rates more competitive, we can work with government to create the best possible environment here for growth and innovation.”

The CBI’s manifesto also calls for the new Scottish government to:

  • Outline a clear tax roadmap to show how revenue from income tax, land taxes, Air Passenger Duty, council tax and business rates will be used to drive growth
  • Create a new business-led board to give Skills Development Scotland advice on how to address skills shortages
  • Increase housing supply to 25,000 new homes each year, while strengthening the capacity of local planning authorities to help developments get started
  • Deliver a shortlist of future transport infrastructure priorities that are critical to the Scottish economy and have cross-party support
  • Boost collaboration between businesses and universities that drive innovation and research to help Scottish firms compete internationally.

Mr Aitken added:Our manifesto is about what business can do for government, individuals and society, rather than just what government can do for business.

“Business can create the jobs and generate the wealth that will create a prosperous, aspirational and inclusive society – getting there must be the shared goal of government and business.

“Having a clear tax roadmap would enable firms to plan ahead and make changes to payroll systems, as well as encourage long-term investment in innovation and infrastructure.

“And improvements to road and rail connections to cities in northern England, more direct flights from Scotland through Heathrow to the rest of the world, and broader, faster digital networks will boost economic opportunities and job creation.”

The CBI’s manifesto entitled “Accelerating our ambitions – A business vision to drive success in Scotland” also sets out longer term priorities for the new Scottish government.

Priorities for year two include: a commitment to use funding raised through the UK Apprenticeship Levy to improve workforce skills; improved digital connectivity in government and local authority infrastructure projects, and making Scottish Enterprise the first port of call in supporting business.

In year three, priorities include: extending the provision of 15 hours free childcare to all one and two year olds; supporting the Airports Commission recommendations to deliver new hub capacity, and the development of a Scottish-UK energy plan to boost infrastructure long term.

The CBI will be holding a fringe event during the SNP party conference at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) on Friday, 16 October. Entitled From recovery to prosperity: seizing opportunities at home and abroad, guest speakers include Finance Cabinet Secretary John Swinney and the CBI’s Hugh Aitken.

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