Scotland Election 2016

Leaders discuss business rates on Holyrood campaign trail

Leader collage

Scotland's political leaders have been discussing their policies to support business after calls for a review of tax rates.

Organisations, including the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and Scottish Engineering, have called for a "fundamental and comprehensive" review of business rates to boost Scotland's "underperforming" economy.

The county's politicians offered up a range of policies to boost business while campaigning ahead of May's Holyrood election.

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP

Nicola Sturgeon pledged to help firms thrive with "competitive" rates while addressing an audience of business leaders in Glasgow.

The SNP leader said "government and business need to work with a shared purpose".

She said: "An SNP government would do everything it could to help businesses thrive in Scotland - with competitive business rates, major investment in infrastructure and raising attainment, and a drive to break down barriers in education".

Ms Sturgeon also pledged support for start-ups and expanding firms along with female entrepreneurs, saying the country could only reach its full potential "when the glass ceiling has been firmly broken".

Kezia Dugdale, Labour

Kezia Dugdale said Labour did not have plans to reduce business rates, but would retain the small business bonus scheme.

The Scottish Labour leader said: "I'm travelling the country just now speaking to businesses all the time and the number one thing they want with regard to business rates is a sense of transparency, that they know what they're paying for. And our manifesto is committed to providing that transparency and that security about the years ahead."

"We want to support businesses to grow. We have no plans to reduce business rates, but we are saying, however, that we would maintain the small business bonus scheme, and that we would provide a greater degree of transparency about the business rate mechanism."

Ms Dugdale also promoted Labour's plans to build 60,000 homes over the course of the next parliament, including 45,000 affordable ones for social rent.

Ruth Davidson, Conservatives

Ruth Davidson criticised the amount of tax the Scottish government has been taking from businesses.

The Scottish Conservative leader said income from business rates alone had increased 42% since the SNP came to power, which she said impacted on employment.

She said: "Money which could be used to employ a new member of staff or take on an apprentice is going straight to John Swinney."

Ms Davidson was campaigning aboard the Sir Walter Scott Steamship at Loch Katrine.

Willie Rennie, Lib Dems

Image copyright Scottish Lib Dems / Twitter

Willie Rennie said the best way to support businesses was to provide them with a skilled workforce.

The Lib Dem leader said better education was "the biggest thing the state can provide towards the economy", but also said there should be a "thorough review" of business rates.

Visiting a nursery with UK party leader Tim Farron, Mr Rennie also stressed his plans to invest more in schools and nurseries.

He said: "We want Scotland to be the best again - we need to invest in nursery education, so we can get Scotland's education back up to being the best in the world."

Scottish Greens

Image copyright Scottish Greens / Twitter

Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP at Westminster, spent the day campaigning alongside Green candidates in Scotland.

She joined Alison Johnstone and Andy Wightman at a nursery in Ediburgh, where they painted a map of Scotland green alongside local children.

Ms Lucas then took part in a demonstration against fracking in Falkirk, before heading to Glasgow to campaign alongside Scottish Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie.

Ms Lucas was arrested during an anti-fracking protest in West Sussex in 2013, and talked to campaigners in Falkirk about her experience while lending her support to their efforts.

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