Tom Peterkin: How a few key decisions by ministers tarnished government's reputation

When the SNP came to power, the brains trust of John Swinney and Jim Mather was warmly welcomed by most in the business community. Here were men who understood business and appeared to understand the importance of economic growth.

In Mather, in particular, they had a politician who was also a highly successful businessman in his own right. Their credibility was also helped by the fact that they had the backing of prominent Scottish business figures such as Brian Souter, Sir Tom Farmer and Sir George Mathewson.

Since the heady days of 2007-08, the economic situation has altered dramatically. And it is also fair to say that, as far as the business community is concerned, some of the gloss has disappeared from the SNP.

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That is why Iain McMillan of the CBI has expressed such trenchant views in his New Year message. In it, he does acknowledge good things that the Scottish Government has done, but the credits are outweighed by the debits.

On the credit side, capital projects such as the new M74, the new M80 and the Airdrie-to- Bathgate rail link are important infrastructure improvements.

Similarly, there has been some encouraging inward investment, particularly in places such as the BioQuarter near the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and in the burgeoning biotechnology sector in Dundee.

These are encouraging signs in an economic era in which we can no longer expect the huge investment of commodity manufacturing that brought companies such as NEC and Motorola to Scotland.

But as the economy faltered and Scotland's two most prominent banks failed, the SNP's business touch seemed fallible. It was not just the transformation of the Arc of Prosperity into an Arc of Insolvency, but also the intervention of ministers in domestic business that proved damaging.

CBI Scotland was highly critical when Alex Salmond publicly protested against Diageo's decision to close its Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock. While his intervention could be understood from a desire to prevent job losses, business figures felt politicians were interfering with a private company, which had to restructure and was creating jobs elsewhere in the country.

The Scottish Government's unsuccessful attempt to pass legislation to bring in minimum pricing for alcohol may have been popular with health professionals, but it was met with opposition from one of Scotland's staple commercial interests - the whisky industry.

More recently, it has been Swinney's decision in his November Budget to raise business rates for larger retailers and supermarkets has angered the business community, who point out that the likes of Tesco are some of our biggest employers in the private sector.

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Swinney says the policy will generate 30 million. But the worry is that big firms will be discouraged from coming to Scotland.

Serious discussion about the economy ought to be at the heart of the election.

In his New Year message, McMillan recognises there is a "temptation" that politicians may "avoid tough decisions and court popularity".

Scotland and her economy deserves better than that.