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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 16:13 GMT
Gray angers business
A factory worker
The report was published last month
Enterprise Minister Iain Gray has accepted 21 of the 23 recommendations made by an expert group set up to help the manufacturing sector pull out of an economic slump.

The Scottish Manufacturing Steering Group called for more investment in roads, broadband and training.

However, business leaders are angry that their call for tax cuts has been rejected by the minister.

The think-tank, which published a report last month, was led by Dr Chris Masters.

Competitive advantage

It recommended that Scotland's business rates should be brought into line with those in the rest of the UK.

It also called for a reduction in rates in the longer term in an attempt to give Scotland a competitive advantage.

Mr Gray said the executive had accepted all the recommendations - with the exception of the two covering business rates.

We very much regret that on business rates executive ministers continue to argue that the earth is flat
Iain McMillan
CBI Scotland
He pointed out that he had frozen business rates and introduced rates relief for small businesses.

"I do not need to remind anyone of the problems that the sector has faced not just here in Scotland but around the world," he said.

"It is therefore only right that we have worked hard to take on board most of the points that Chris Masters' group raised with us in their report."

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan said he welcomed many of Mr Gray's commitments.

"But we are very disappointed by his point blank refusal to accept that business in Scotland requires a level playing field on business rates," he said.

'Vital issue'

"Scotland's higher rate poundage results in businesses in Scotland paying a 9% premium compared with businesses south of the border on a like-for-like basis.

"We very much regret that on business rates executive ministers continue to argue that the earth is flat. Our members large and small will not stop pressing the coalition ministers on this vital issue."

Mr Gray also announced that he intends to pilot 300 Business Learning Accounts (BLAs).

The last scheme had to be abandoned after fears that it was open to fraud by training companies.

Manufacturing still in recession
02 Mar 03 |  Scotland
Scots economy shows slight growth
05 Feb 03 |  Scotland
Scots economy 'out of recession'
06 Nov 02 |  Scotland

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