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Supporting Business and Enterprise - Taking forward our National Conversation

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Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

The overriding Purpose of this Government is clear: to focus the Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. The recession has provided further evidence - if any were needed - for the Scottish Government to have greater autonomy to manage the Scottish economy and improve the environment for Scottish business. Experience of the last 30 years demonstrates that the status quo has not delivered sustainable economic growth in Scotland which matches UK performance, or indeed the performance of similar and independent nations.

It is now time for a new approach that gives Scotland responsibility for the economic levers that will allow us to reach our full potential as a nation. There is now a clear consensus that the devolution settlement put in place 10 years ago should move forward. We need to embrace that opportunity, and recognise that in moving forward our priority must be a new settlement that allows us to achieve the best outcomes for Scotland. The realities of the European Union, with a single market and open borders, mean that whether as part of the UK or an independent nation Scotland would continue to trade within a European home market of 500 million people, removing once and for all old fears and scare stories about access for Scottish business. Our social, cultural and economic links will be sustained as we build a new, more modern and indeed more appropriate partnership with the other nations on these Isles, and more widely the other nations of Europe. We will continue to work with business - as we do at present - and take full account of their views. We want Scotland's wealth creators to have the best possible conditions to grow successful businesses, with a more competitive Scotland that becomes one of the very best places to do business in Europe.

The Scottish Government is fully committed to encouraging and nurturing a supportive business environment. Businesses are the key to delivering accelerated and sustainable economic growth. With greater autonomy or in an independent Scotland we would therefore look to build on current factors that provide comparative business advantage, with new initiatives such as lower corporation tax to give companies in Scotland a new competitive edge and to attract new businesses to Scotland. Improvements to the business environment would be focused on supporting infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship with a view to fostering improved growth and productivity in the Scottish economy. The ability to borrow would also allow us to improve connectivity in Scotland at a faster rate and enable increased investment when it was needed in the Scottish economy.

This paper makes clear that there are many such opportunities to support business better. Like all National Conversation papers, this analysis is intended to prompt further discussion and thought and we in the Scottish Government welcome on-going debate regarding the issues covered by this paper.

John Swinney MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth