6 September 2016

  |  CBI Press Team


Hugh Aitken responds to the Programme for Government

CBI Scotland has responded to the First Minister’s speech setting out the Programme for Government.

Hugh Aitken responds to the Programme for Government

Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland Director, said:

“The business community wants a successful, strong and prosperous Scotland, where the proceeds of growth are shared more widely by increasing productivity across the country.

“Following the vote to leave the European Union, and against a challenging fiscal backdrop, the Scottish Government has outlined plans to drive growth by focussing on education, physical and digital infrastructure, and access to finance.

“But this announcement did not go far enough to mitigate concerns around business rates.

“Companies will look forward to hearing details of the Scottish Government’s work with the UK Government to get the best deal for the whole UK from the forthcoming negotiations with the EU.”

On the Scottish Growth scheme, Hugh said:

“Small and mid-sized businesses should be at the heart of Scotland’s long-term economic strategy, which is why we’re encouraged by the Scottish Growth Scheme and look forward to working with the Government on the detail. Medium-sized businesses deserve special focus as they often fall between the gaps of support for ‘small and ‘large’ firms.”

On the digital connectivity pledge, Hugh said:

“Breaking down barriers for firms adopting digital technologies is essential for unlocking productivity and growth in the economy. Businesses will therefore be enthusiastic about the Scottish Government’s pledge to extend superfast broadband to all homes and business properties by the end of this Parliament.”

On infrastructure investment, Hugh said:

“CBI Scotland has long called for improvements to the A9 and A96, so we’re pleased to see these routes included in the £1.4bn set aside for road enhancements.

“A commitment to Scotland’s long-term infrastructure needs will enable firms up and down the country to get on with growing our economy and creating jobs for the long-run.”

On business rates, Hugh said:

“While this announcement addresses some of the concerns of smaller businesses, larger organisations will be disheartened by the lack of movement on the large business supplement. Currently, large firms pay double what similar firms pay south of the border, and this impedes rather than incentivises investment.”

On extra support for free childcare, Hugh said:

“The aspiration to increase the number of free childcare hours available for three and four year olds is welcome, but we would urge the Scottish Government to go further. More help is needed to support families returning to work by closing the gap between free provision of childcare and statutory maternity pay.”

On education, Hugh said:

“Businesses stand ready to help break down the walls between work and education. We want to support the Government in building an education system that gives pupils the choice between academic/vocational routes or both.”

On the apprenticeship levy, Hugh said:

“Our submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation made clear the importance of ensuring that the employers who will be major direct funders of the skills system are supported to invest in skills. A flexible skills fund would make sure that businesses can invest in their current and future workforce, and give them the ability to invest in all of their training needs – that should include not only apprenticeships, but also reskilling current employees or working with supply chains to develop talent in small and medium-sized companies.”

On energy and climate change, Hugh said:

“Scotland has already made good progress in reducing emissions. Business will look forward to the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan and accompanying Energy Strategy, which should set out how its ambitious carbon targets will be met whilst ensuring security of supply and affordability.”

 On Air Passenger Duty, Hugh said:

“Business has been clear all along – they want to see a 50% cut in Scottish APD, and an immediate cut in Band B to generate maximum economic impact. Overall, firms wants to maintain simplicity in the structure of APD to avoid unnecessary cost and complexity.”

On the Referendum Bill consultation, Hugh said:

“For many businesses, the immediate priority is to ensure that the needs of the devolved nations are represented in the discussions on the UK’s future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. This is of vital importance.
“The Scottish and UK Governments are already working together ahead of the forthcoming negotiations, which should be characterised by access to trade and skills, balancing regulation, as well as protecting the economic and social benefits of EU-funded projects.”