Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Business support 'only skin deep'

High street
The CBI called for longer term measures on the economy

Support for business in Scotland is sometimes only "skin deep", it has been claimed.

CBI Scotland said the proposed local income tax could turn business away and raised concerns about ruling out the creation of new nuclear power plants.

The employers' organisation said the government should use the key levers of power to help the economy.

The Scottish Government said the criticism backed its calls for greater fiscal autonomy for Scotland.

CBI Scotland did find some common ground on the approach to transport, planning, education and business rates but the emphasis was on what the Scottish Government was doing wrong.

Ministers need to do much more in 2009 than they have to date to develop our economy for the long term
Iain McMillan
CBI Scotland

Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, said: "The Scottish Government holds the key levers of power to deliver Scotland's long-term economic success and, thus far, has put in place some welcome measures for business and the economy.

"Business is looking favourably on those policies that will improve the performance of the Scottish economy over time - transport, planning, education, skills, business rates and regulation.

"We are also supportive of the measures taken to assist businesses in the short-term during the economic downturn.

"But, the Scottish Government's support for business often appears to be only skin deep and ministers need to do much more in 2009 than they have to date to develop our economy for the long term and improve Scotland's reputation in the rest of the UK and internationally as an attractive place in which to do business."

There was also disagreement over private sector involvement in the National Health Service and measures to deter alcohol sales.

The Scottish Government called for further economic powers to be devolved to Holyrood and pointed out that Mr McMillan was a member of the Calman Commission which is examining the future of devolution.

A spokesman said the "key" economic levers rested with Westminster, whose pre-budget report was a missed opportunity to deliver "the maximum bangs for bucks".

He said: "Within our more limited powers, from our first day in office this government has delivered key policy interventions to support jobs and business, which is why Scotland is ahead of the curve in addressing the current economic downturn - with significantly lower unemployment, and higher employment and economic activity rates than the UK as a whole.

"We have a six-point economic recovery programme to accelerate investment and stimulate economic development, while targeting support at households and businesses with measures ahead of anything that exists south of the border - such as business rates cuts and the council tax freeze."

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