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As Sturgeon pledges higher paid jobs...

Retailers fear SNP business rates policy is ‘here to stay’

David Lonsdale at CallyRetailers are reeling from an SNP pledge to continue with what they consider ‘punitive’ levels of business rates.

Unveiling the SNP manifesto yesterday, party leader Nicola Sturgeon outlined tax policies to back up a string of pledges on public sector services.

She said: “Taken together, our income tax plans, our reforms to local tax and our changes to business rates for larger businesses, will allow us to raise at least £2 billion over the next parliament to fund the key policies at the heart of this manifesto.”

David Lonsdale (pictured), director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “I take it this means the £60 million large firms rates surcharge on Scots based firms is here to stay, and that they expect it to generate £300m over the lifetime of the next Parliament.”

He said that it appears income tax rises will generate £1.2 billion and that the council tax rises will generate £500m.

Ms Sturgeon said that the SNP would “open the doors of opportunity to all our young people” with a re-elected SNP government focused on doubling free childcare, reforming education, improving attainment and increasing access to university and training.

She set out plans which she said would “transform Scotland’s health service, create a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, restore dignity to the social security system, and to decentralise public services and empower people across the country”.

The First Minister said: “Our promise in this election is not simply to maintain our record – it is to build on it. It is not business as usual. It is transformation.

“Through our support for our youngest children, by investing in and transforming education, by support-ing the innovators and entrepreneurs who will build the economy of the future, an SNP government will back opportunity at every level.”

Key proposals in the manifesto include:

•    Additional investment of almost £2 billion in Scotland’s NHS over the next five years, £500 million
more than inflation by the end of the Parliament, with more money going to social, primary and community care;
•    Investment to double childcare to 30 hours a week for all 3 & 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds;
•    A commitment to lift 100,000 small businesses out of business rates completely, ensuring Scotland remains a competitive place to do business;
•    A national drive to increase innovation and productivity;
•    A new Scottish Social Security Agency with respect and dignity at its core and investment of more than £200 million in key measures to make social security fairer.

Making a series of new commitments to decentralisation and community empowerment that will reform the governance of Scotland the SNP leader added: “Throughout this document you will see a commitment to decentralising decision making, enhancing democratic engagement, strengthening community organisations and making sure our structures of government are fit for purpose.

“We believe that devolution of powers from London should not stop here in Edinburgh – it should continue on down to all of the diverse communities.

Second independence referendum

“There is not a day goes by that I am not asked if there will be a second independence referendum in the next parliament.

“Well, my answer to that, in one sense, is simple – I would like that.

“I believe with all my heart that independence is the best future for our country.

“But if there is to be a second referendum – whether that is in the next parliament or in a future parlia-ment – we first have to earn the right to propose it.

“Setting the date for a referendum before a majority of the Scottish people have been persuaded that independence – and therefore another referendum – is the best future for our country is the wrong way round.

“So this summer, we will start new work to persuade a majority in Scotland of the case for independence.

“If we don’t succeed, we will have no right to propose another referendum.

“But if we do succeed – if in the future there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – then no politician will have the right to stand in the way.

“The future of our country must always be in the hands of the people of our country.”

Economy

Ms Sturgeon said the party “will grow our economy with a focus on creating more, better and higher paid jobs”

The party pledges to:

•    Lead a national drive to boost productivity with support for new ideas and entrepreneurs.
•    Extend the Small Business Bonus, so that 100,000 businesses will pay no business rates at all, main-taining a competitive business environment.
•    Build the infrastructure that Scotland needs to grow, with almost £20 billion of investment in roads, rail, schools and 50,000 new homes – and 100% broadband coverage across all of Scotland.
•    Extend payment of the living wage and develop an employment service that supports people into work.
•    Establish an Innovation prize, support education for entrepreneurs, review business support to focus on innovation, internationalisation and scaling up companies.

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