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[ 31-12-2010 ]

“As 2010 ends and 2011 begins, Scottish business is in a crucial phase.  The past year has seen our economy finally begin to recover after the longest, deepest recession in over half a century.  Business growth has returned but it is clear that the recovery is proving to be shallower than many had anticipated and there is still a long way to go before many businesses catch up to where they were before the recession took hold.  That said, there have been numerous success stories and 2010 was a fantastic year for many Scottish businesses.  In 2011, the target is to ensure that the culture of success spreads throughout Scotland and that our economic recovery takes a firm foothold on the path back to sustained growth. 
“All of this is taking place against a background of political evolution and change.  The 2010 UK General Election heralded a new style of coalition government and a swift change in policy in terms of tackling the budget deficit.  As a result, the Scottish block grant is being reduced over the next four years and the Scottish budget has had to reflect this reality with politicians having to make stark public spending choices.  In 2011, we face the fourth Scottish Parliamentary Election campaign and it is vitally important that Scotland’s politicians get the decisions right to guide the economy to sustained growth.  As the parties gear up for these important elections, Scottish Chambers of Commerce have six key recommendations for 2011. 
Public services must deliver true value for money.  For too long, politicians of all colours have measured the success of public spending policies by how much is being spent.  It’s time we stopped this nonsense and focused on what really matters: outputs and results.  Scotland plc must deliver better value for money if we are to retain essential services. 
Return business rates to balance.  Over the past year, Scottish businesses have been hit with a double whammy of the axing of Transitional Relief and a new surcharge on large retailers.  Our business rates are becoming uncompetitive with the rest of the UK and this needs to be reversed if we are to maximise growth and investment.
Focus on infrastructure.  Successive Scottish Governments have understood that boosting infrastructure investment will facilitate long term economic growth.  Against a background of falling capital budgets, this focus must be maintained if we are to guarantee Scotland’s competitiveness.
Support local businesses.  The Scottish public sector retains significant buying power even against the background of government cutbacks.  Where goods and services are procured from the private sector, every effort must be made to source these locally where possible. 
Develop the skills we need for the future.  Scotland’s most valuable resource is its people and we must secure a return for our investment in education and skills by equipping young people with the talents business needs over the next decades.
Secure our energy future.  Scotland is making excellent progress towards our renewable energy targets but serious concerns remain over our baseload electricity capacity post-2020.  Now is the time to ensure that Scotland has a broad and balanced energy policy going forward. 
“We have come through a difficult economic period and there are still many challenges ahead.  In 2011, let’s work together to create the foundations for sustainable growth.”