Deputy First Minister Shona Robison is being urged to step up support for town and city centres and to double the Scottish Government's funding for the energy transition when she announces her budget next week.
Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce has written to ministers urging them to deliver a budget that creates the conditions for business to flourish, encourages growth, creates good quality jobs and helps to unlock the full potential of a net zero economy.
The Chamber has also joined nine other business bodies in calling for the SNP/Green administration to avoid measures that may make Scotland less competitive, such as raising income and property tax rates and thresholds.
The Chamber's policy work focuses on four key areas — creating a prosperous business environment, supporting a just energy transition, regenerating our city and town centres and improving regional connectivity — and the group has asked Ms Robison to take action on all these fronts in Tuesday's budget.
Creating a prosperous business environment
The Chamber has asked the government to avoid measures in the forthcoming budget that may make Scotland less competitive, particularly in relation to any decisions on income and property tax rates and thresholds.
Russell Borthwick, Chief Executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: We are concerned that further increases in terms of bands and rates will reduce the spending power of Scottish consumers, damage business confidence, remove money from the real economy, disincentivise investment in Scotland and inhibit our ability to create jobs and attract and retain the talent our economy and society needs."
Supporting a just energy transition
On energy transition, the Chamber has asked that the Scottish Government's Just Transition Fund be at least doubled, saying such a move would represent a "sound investment" in Scotland's future.
Mr Borthwick added: "Recognising the scale of the challenge of energy transition and the need to go further and faster in creating a more diversified and resilient economy as we move away from oil and gas, we believe that the Scottish Government should raise its ambition in the support available for our region.
"It has become very clear that a Just Transition Fund disbursing just £50 million annually to our region to deliver this ambition — arguably the most important task of governments globally — is extremely limited."
City and town centre regeneration
To support town and city centres, AGGC has requested that the Deputy First Minister should freeze the headline poundage rate on business rates and match the more generous terms on offer in England for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure (RHL) businesses, where there is a 75% relief.
"Doing so would ensure that many Scottish businesses can create and retain jobs and continue to make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy, particularly in the challenging setting of town and city centres," Mr Borthwick said.
Currently, Scottish pubs are closing at twice the rate in Scotland versus the rest of the UK.
Improving regional connectivity
Finally, the Chamber has said that an accelerated programme of rail improvement for the region, which shortens journey times to and from other major centres, must be delivered.
Further support for the Campaign for North East Rail to establish the case for reinstating passenger and freight rail in the Buchan area, has also been requested.
You can read the full letter here.