In government, we have a strong track record in making sure Scotland is an attractive place for businesses to invest and grow – but we want to do more.
We’ve already put in place the most competitive business tax environment in the UK, with the number of registered business in Scotland at a record-high, and Scotland is consistently ranked in the top two regions outside of London for foreign direct investment.
If re-elected we will build on this progress. An SNP government will use all the powers available to us – both new and existing – to help businesses thrive. Here are our five key pledges for Scottish business:
1. Slashing or abolishing business rates
To help protect jobs and businesses, we’ve already slashed or abolished business rates for almost 100,000 premises. If re-elected, we will maintain the Small Business Bonus Scheme for the entirety of the next Parliament and will carry out a review of the business rates regime to ensure it continues to support growth and investment.
2. Superfast broadband for every premises in Scotland
Our £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme has already delivered broadband to 85 per cent of premises in Scotland, and is on track to ensure 95 per cent of premises – both homes and businesses – have access to broadband by the end of 2017.
A re-elected SNP Government will use innovative schemes, new technologies and provide financial backing to deliver broadband to the remaining 5 per cent of homes and businesses over the next Parliament – benefitting rural and remote communities in particular.
3. Boosting innovation and exports
International exports increased by 36 per cent between 2007 and 2014 under the SNP, from £20.3 billion to £27.5 billion. This is good progress, but we want to see even more of Scotland’s businesses growing and exporting to other countries. That’s why we will triple the number of exporting advisors in Scotland and fund new Innovation and Investment Hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels, to attract inward investment and help companies and academia access new markets and investors.
4. Increasing international connectivity
We also want to increase international connectivity and support our thriving tourist industry, so we’ll use new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to halve Air Passenger Duty, one of the highest taxes of its kind in the world, and ultimately abolish it.
5. Investing in Scotland’s future workforce
In Scotland our single greatest asset is our highly educated, skilled workforce. An SNP government will continue to ensure our young people have the skills to put them at the cutting edge of the economy and jobs market.
Since 2007, 186,855 young people have had the opportunity to undertake a modern apprenticeship. We will build on this progress if re-elected.We will increase the number of Modern Apprentices from 25,000 to 30,000 per year by 2021. The 5,000 additional apprenticeships created will be targeted at high level science, engineering and technology sectors.
If re-elected for an historic third term we will build on our strong record of economic delivery, and implement our positive and ambitious plans to help Scotland’s businesses thrive.
Fergus Ewing is Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism