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[ 05-12-2012 ]

 Commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) have welcomed some positive news for Scottish businesses but warned that even more action be necessary to help boost demand and kick start solid and consistent growth in the Scottish economy.  Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of SCC, said:

On the planned reduction in Corporation Tax to 21%:
“The plan to reduce our headline rate of Corporation Tax to just 21% by 2014 is extremely welcome and send out a clear message that Scotland and the UK are places to do business.  This is one of the lowest rates of corporate taxes across the major economies and not only provides an incentive to indigenous business but also makes Scotland an even more attractive location for inward investment.”
On promoting trade and investment:
“We applaud the focus on increased investment to support business growth through exporting.  The Scottish Chamber Network appreciates the Chancellor’s statement recognising the enormous and as yet untapped connectivity we have across the Globe and the potential of private sector leadership.  We do however need to reassess whether we in Scotland are providing the right level of support to those businesses who do not export if we are to truly realise our ambitions to grow Scotland’s job market.  Let’s get back to the basics of what small businesses really need help in, rather than what the “suppliers” of an array of services have to offer.”
On the inclusion of Aberdeen and Perth in the latest round of superfast broadband investment:
“Scottish businesses view digital connectivity as being vital for their success but this is an area where investment has proved to be slow and not nearly aspirational enough to put Scotland in a world leading position.  It is therefore extremely welcome that Aberdeen and Perth have received a boost through their inclusion in the latest round of funding targeted at the UK’s smaller cities.  Both locations are economically vital to Scotland and we look forward to rapid progress in delivering this digital investment.”
On the decision to cancel January’s planned 3p increase in Fuel Duty:
“Given how often Governments are forced to abandon planned increases in Fuel Duty, it is about time that these were abandoned entirely, with changes made to Fuel Duty as and when required and not an automatic increase as a matter of course.  The decision to cancel January’s rise is welcome but let’s hope it’s the last threat of this nature we receive for a while.”
On the increase in the threshold for the annual investment allowance for plant and machinery to £250,000 for 2013 and 2014:
“The increased allowance small and medium sized businesses in relation to capital investment is good news.  However, we still need to get over the confidence hurdle and get moving.  Financial partners and sharing some of the measured risk would help many businesses on this track.  We would urge more of an urgency in creating a Business Bank especially given the weak figures announced from the Funding for Lending Scheme.”
On the news that the Scottish Government will benefit from an additional £394 million of capital spending:
“Scottish Chambers of Commerce has repeatedly called on the UK Government to free up more capital resources for the Scottish Government, as the savage reductions made in the 2010 UK Government Spending Review have severely affected Scotland’s ability to return to growth, despite the best efforts of the Scottish Government to prioritise infrastructure investment.  We therefore welcome the additional flexibility on capital spend that will flow to the Scottish Government from the Autumn Statement and we would urge the Scottish Government to direct this investment towards areas such as transport and digital connectivity where Scotland can build long term economic benefits.”
The Autumn Statement also raised a number of concerns for Scottish business.  Liz Cameron commented further:
On Business Rates:
“The Chancellor failed to signal a much needed freeze in business rates for 2013, meaning that the Scottish Government is now likely to impose a 2.6% increase on Scotland’s business rates on top of the 5.6% increase we have been faced with this year.  Business rates are the third biggest expense for many businesses and it is time that firms received a break from the relentless increases of recent years.”
On Empty Property Relief:
“The UK Government is now beginning to recognise the folly of its policy of removing Empty Property Relief and has signalled a change in direction to ensure an extended grace period for newly completed buildings.  There is still time for the Scottish Government to step back from its plans to reduce Empty Property Relief in Scotland and avoid further damage to our economy and we would urge them to do so.”