Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

CBI 'disappointed' by ministers

Glasgow Airport Rail Link image
CBI Scotland condemned the scrapping of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Scottish government ministers have been accused of "disappointing behaviours" by the director of CBI Scotland.

Iain McMillan claimed the actions of some Holyrood ministers "call into question the sincerity of their support for the economy and business".

Mr McMillan gave the government credit for some "policy successes" in 2009, like changes to the planning system.

Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed Westminster had cut his budget, leaving him with "very tough decisions".

In a new year message, Mr McMillan said the "disappointing behaviours" needed to be "a thing of the past" in 2010.

He reiterated his views during an interview on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

We have focused the priorities of the public sector and the priorities of government on improving the Scottish economy and we do that in very challenging times
John Swinney
Finance secretary

Mr McMillan said: "I have given them [the Scottish government] praise for levelling the business rate with England, for the development of the M74, the M80 and quite a few policies that they have got right."

But he added: "I think there have been a lot of negatives as well, for example the cancellation of the Glasgow Airport rail link and the Scottish government's refusal to countenance nuclear energy in Scotland.

"There's been the minister's criticism of Diageo - an international company that needs to remain competitive, that needed to take steps to do that whilst at the same time investing £100m in the future of the whisky industry in Scotland."

Mr McMillan argued that the government "must do more for business and the economy if it is to have any real chance of achieving its primary goal of raising Scotland's growth rate to the UK level by 2011".

The CBI Scotland chief called on ministers to "put in place policies that promote, rather than hinder, economic growth".

'Damning critique'

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Swinney said: "I have to live within my means and the Westminster government has cut my budget for the first time in real terms since devolution.

"As a consequence I have to take supplementary decisions, and as a consequence reluctantly I had to cancel the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.

"I had to do that because I have to live within a fixed financial budget, I cannot break that budget. Everybody else can go around arguing for a limitless number of projects to be undertaken, I have to put the money on the table for those projects."

He also hit back at Mr McMillan's claims that ministers had been "shouting and bawling at Diageo".

Mr Swinney said: "On no occasion did we shout down the company. We engaged in dialogue with the company about how they were going to structure their future within Scotland."

Paid invoice
Mr McMillan praised the government for speeded-up payments

And he stated: "We have focused the priorities of the public sector and the priorities of government on improving the Scottish economy and we do that in very challenging times.

"In 2009 there were a whole range of policy successes that were welcomed by the business community and delivered by the SNP government."

Labour described the CBI's message as a "damning critique".

Economy spokesman David Whitton said: "It is clear that businesses are delivering a vote of no confidence in the SNP.

"The SNP government is just not doing enough to support business and create jobs."

For the Scottish Conservatives, Derek Brownlee said: "As Scotland struggles with Labour's recession the SNP Scottish government has to work with the UK government to help the economy recover.

"In government, Alex Salmond and the SNP have shown little sign of being business friendly - they are a party which, as their recent conference showed, is openly hostile to the private sector."

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