Jeremy Hunt accues Nicola Sturgeon of being ‘at war’ with business

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of being at war with the Scottish business community.

Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Michal Wachucik/PA Wire
Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Michal Wachucik/PA Wire

The Foreign Secretary claimed Ms Sturgeon does not know how tough it is to start a company and suggested he would give greater support to businesses in Scotland if he becomes Prime Minister.

Mr Hunt, who was campaigning in Aberdeenshire on Sunday, said: “The difference between me and Nicola Sturgeon is one of us has started a business.

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“I know what it takes, how tough it can be to get a company going.

“Nicola doesn’t and it shows in the way she treats the Scottish business community.

“So my argument with Nicola Sturgeon isn’t just about the union. It’s about her war on business.

“We’ve seen business rates going up, putting Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.

“Income taxes on ordinary people going up so they’ve got less money to spend in the shops.”

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Mr Hunt also criticised proposals to introduce a workplace parking levy, under which employers could pay an annual tax to participating local authorities for every parking space they provide for employees.

He said: “The car park tax is naive and foolish. It’s a tax on workers that hits poorer people more than it hits the wealthy.

“If you back business, you create opportunities for everyone and generate more money for public services.

“My Government would treat the concerns of a small business struggling in Edinburgh just as importantly as a major employer in the city of London.

“They wouldn’t have to wait patiently for the SNP’s support, they would have mine.”

Mr Hunt also warned a government led by his leadership rival Boris Johnson would rapidly collapse when faced with key decisions on Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary said Mr Johnson had put together a “fragile” coalition of supporters and opponents of a no-deal Brexit which would quickly disintegrate in office.

His warning came as Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said around a dozen Conservative MPs could be prepared to support a vote of no-confidence in the Government to prevent a no-deal break with the EU.

“I think a dozen or so Members of Parliament would be on our side, would be voting against supporting a no-deal and that would include ministers as well as backbenchers,” Mr Ellwood told BBC One’s Panorama programme.

Mr Hunt said Mr Ellwood’s comments underlined the danger of pushing to leave the EU by October 31 - as Mr Johnson has promised - without a majority in Parliament.

“He is going to come to power on a very fragile coalition of people like Matt Hancock, who wants no-deal taken off the table, Mark Francois, who wants no-deal,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“Sometimes in politics you can fudge and get away with it but in the case of Brexit you are going to have to make decisions immediately and that very fragile coalition will collapse immediately when you have to make those decisions.

“If that happens we won’t have another leadership contest, we will have Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 and there won’t be any Brexit at all.”