As MSPs reconvene at Holyrood following the summer recess, their attention will turn quickly to the unveiling of the Scottish Government’s legislative and administrative programme for the coming year. So what does business want to see from our MSPs in the months ahead?
The past year has been tough for many firms. However, recent data suggests Scotland’s economy is perking up, albeit at a decidedly modest rate. For many it will not feel like recovery for some time yet, reinforcing the need for policies which promote business investment and exports.
With the Scottish Parliament responsible for many areas of importance to the economy and an annual budget of £30billion, business has a real stake in this debate.
Our political leaders must channel their collective energies into aiding the recovery, and all MSPs have a role to play. The legislative agenda should include:
• A moratorium in the Budget Bill to ensure no further new or additional business rates levies are introduced during this parliamentary term (following last year’s £95million rates levy on larger retailers and this year’s £36m rates rise on empty commercial premises).
• A Procurement Reform Bill which signals a fresh approach to public service reform through contracting-out the delivery of a far wider range of public services to the private and third sectors, and which gives independent providers a “right to bid” to deliver public services.
• Legislation which frees up additional monies for GDP-enhancing infrastructure projects, for example by mutualising Scottish Water or turning it into a public interest company thus making it less reliant on the public purse.
• A commitment that any new statutory register of lobbyists will be consistent at both Holyrood and Westminster, in order to avoid unnecessary administrative complexity for those having to navigate both regulatory regimes.
While the coming political year will understandably be dominated by the looming referendum, this remains a trying time for Scotland’s economy. The overriding challenge to our politicians is to test all policies against a single benchmark: will it make Scotland a better place to create jobs and wealth as the recovery takes hold?
• David Lonsdale is assistant director of CBI Scotland