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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 17:27 GMT
Parties set out business pledges
Scottish Enterprise building
The Tories said they would scrap Scottish Enterprise as it is
Scotland's main parties have been setting out their plans for business in the run-up to the Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Conservatives have offered to scrap business rates for the smallest firms with a rateable value of up to 7,000.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party wants to guarantee at least 20% of public procurement contracts for small firms in Scotland.

Scottish Labour has claimed that SNP policies would damage the economy.

As part of their plan to scrap business tax, the Tories said firms with a rateable value of 7,000 would be completely exempt, there would be a sliding scale of relief and only firms with rateable values of more than 15,000 would receive no discount.

The hand of government and quango has oppressively borne down on business
Annabel Goldie
Scottish Conservative leader

The Tories also said they would scrap Scottish Enterprise in its present form.

Scottish Conservatives leader Annabel Goldie said: "For eight years the Lib-Lab pact has talked smart successful soundbites but the glowing rhetoric has been devoid of any substantive improvements for business.

"Indeed the hand of government and quango has oppressively borne down on business, making more difficult the challenging job which business has to do."

Economic needs

In its election pledge, the SNP has promised small and medium firms a fifth of public procurement contracts if the party wins power at Holyrood.

The policy is on similar lines to Ireland and Sweden, where 20% targets have been set.

The party has already said it would abolish rates for 120,000 small firms and bring rates relief to an additional 30,000.

The pledge was announced by SNP leader Alex Salmond.

David Murray with Walter Smith
David Murray has condemned plans for independence

Mr Salmond also hit back at Labour, which concentrated its attack on the consequences of independence for business and the economy.

Under the SNP's proposals, firms with a rateable value of under 8,000 would pay no business rates at all.

Those with a rateable value of between 8,000 and 10,000 would receive 50% rates relief and there would be 25% relief for those with a rateable value of 10,000 to 15,000.

The party claims this would abolish business rates for 120,000 firms and bring rate reductions for a further 30,000.

A leading businessman joined Labour's onslaught against the SNP, warning that independence would be bad for jobs and the economy.

Former Celtic director Willie Haughey claimed the silence of many big businesses on the independence question amounted to rejection of the SNP case.

Mr Haughey, chief executive of City Refrigeration Holdings, is a member of the Labour Party but said it was his opposition to independence which prompted him to speak out.

'Biggest donor'

Rangers' chairman Sir David Murray has accused Alex Salmond and the SNP of "intimidating" Scotland's businessmen into staying silent on independence, and said time was running out for them to speak up.

"I think I speak for many business leaders and Scottish entrepreneurs when I say the economic stability we have within the UK is good for Scottish business," Mr Haughey said.

"The risks, uncertainties and the inevitable costs of independence would be bad for business and thousands of Scots would pay the price for that with their jobs, their mortgages and their pensions."

Mr Salmond hit back at Labour, saying: "Once upon a time the Labour Party used to produce 100 names of people who support their policy.

"Now they are having to produce their biggest donor in Scotland - over the last few years Willie Haughey has given them 1m - as if he is some sort of new business convert."

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