Commenting on the draft Scottish Budget for 2019 - 20, published today by the Scottish Government, Liz Cameron OBE, director & chief executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "Much weighs on the mind of Scottish business, amongst the midst of Brexit uncertainty and a lack of stability in Westminster. Today’s draft Budget announcement by Cabinet Secretary, Derek Mackay has responded to many concerns that have been raised by business."

On Business Rates: "The Cabinet Secretary has responded to the calls of Scottish business and announced the scrapping of the out of town levy, which was not practical or plausible. Whilst we recognise this will be kept under review, this is an important signal welcomed by the business community. Maintaining the small business bonus scheme and transitional support for businesses in hospitality, and for office premises in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is a sensible approach. The announcement that the main Uniform Business Rate (UBR) is being kept lower than England is positive, however, the continuation of the 2.6p large business supplement is not good news for larger companies."

On the Appeals System: "We look forward to seeing the intention of Ministers for the much-needed reforms of the appeals systems that will be brought forward in February 2019."

On Scottish Income Tax: "Mr. Mackay's decision to freeze the higher income threshold at £43,430 from April, while the UK threshold increases to £50,000, will mean a divergence between north and south of the border. While it remains difficult to quantify the impact the divergence in income tax will have on attracting talent and skills to Scotland, businesses and employees will look at the net balance of measures presented in today's Budget. We do know the task of retaining and recruiting talent has remained a stubborn economic challenge for businesses, so we will remain alert to the impact of this policy, and others, that have the potential to further exacerbate this challenge."

On Skills: "The demand for skills is a top issue and businesses need to be able to hire people with the right skills at the right time. The Cabinet Secretary has recognised this with continued support for the Further and Higher Education sector, as well as expanding provision for apprenticeships, which continue to provide businesses with high-quality talent.”

Town Centres Fund: "The £50m capital fund to support the High Street and Scotland's town centres is a welcome move. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to understand how this fund will be distributed across Scotland's towns and cities, making sure we support the development of thriving and bustling town centres."

On Fair Work: "With a tightening labour market in Scotland and the UK, we welcome the Government's approach to widen the pool of talent available for Scottish companies, particularly its commitment to supporting women to return to work after a career break. In addition, the Government's commitment to supporting parents to address barriers to work and providing in-work support, will provide a much-needed lifeline to those who want to work, whilst also supporting businesses who hire a diverse workforce."

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