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Claim that staff 'won't move to Scotland'

Swinney under cosh as tax policies ‘scare away talent’

Swinney life 2John Swinney was forced to defend the government’s tax policies today after a businessman told him how he was having trouble enticing talented staff to Scotland.

The Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary admitted that buyers of high value properties paid more in Scotland under the new land and buildings transaction tax than in in the rest of the UK.

On personal taxes he conceded: “The government has to think carefully about behavioural responses.”

Alan Walker, a delegate attending a life sciences conference in Edinburgh, said the Scottish government’s policies on property tax and potentially higher income tax was affecting his plans to build a new company north of the border.

Dr Walker, whose company Ryboquin is based in Selkirk, said he had hired one key member of staff who has refused to move to Scotland.

“I am trying to build a significant biotech company in Scotland through merger and acquisition and I cannot praise Scottish Enterprise enough. On the negative side, one of our acquisitions is in London and people will not move to Scotland,” he said.

“They see it as more expensive to buy a house and there are rumours about a differential in income tax between England and Scotland. Our chief scientist will not move out of London.”

Mr Swinney said: “I accept that on higher value properties there is a differential with the rest of the UK. On personal taxation the government has to think carefully about behavioural responses.”

But he said it was important to take into account other factors and the attractions of moving to Scotland.

“People have to look at this in the round. They will find here a greater cohesiveness than the rest of the UK.”

However, he said the government had to be “mindful” of how people responded to government policies on tax.

Earlier, he said the government was committed to encouraging innovation and investment as a way to boost productivity.

He said that the transformation of the Scottish Investment Bank into the Business Development Bank was part of that process and he urged business and academia to collaborate.

This would have benefits in building a world leading sector in life sciences and the development of medicines.

He said it was more difficult to encourage innovation and investment in some sectors and there was still too much fragmentation in the life sciences sector.

The government would focus on bringing the players together and helping growth through projects such as the innovation centres.


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