Reform Scotland

Reform Scotland sets out plans to make Scotland the world’s easiest place to do business

Scrapping Air Passenger Duty one of 11 steps set out by outgoing Chairman Ben Thomson

Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has issued a new report setting out eleven policies designed to make Scotland the world’s easiest place to do business. In his final report as Reform Scotland’s Chairman, Ben Thomson has set out the plans in order to create the healthy business environment which we require in order to pay for public services.

Amongst the recommendations Mr Thomson, who stands down on Tuesday after seven years as Chairman, has called for Air Passenger Duty to be scrapped immediately upon its devolution to the Scottish Parliament as part of the upcoming Scotland Bill. An Edinburgh Airport study has estimated a £200m economic benefit from a 50% reduction in the tax, and Mr Thomson believes that its abolition will be of even greater benefit and improve the international reach of Scotland’s businesses.

The full report – Improving Scotland’s Business Environment – can be read below.  It’s eleven recommendations are:

  • Scrap Air Passenger Duty
  • Devolve business rates to local authorities in order that they can design their own schemes to suit local requirements
  • Scrap fuel duty and vehicle excise duty and replace them with pay-as-you-drive road pricing
  • Make Colleges autonomous charities, free from government control, to give them the same status as universities
  • Transfer the functions of quangos either to local authorities, government departments or independent bodies
  • Devolve more taxes to the Scottish Parliament, including Corporation Tax
  • Reform the planning system, too often an inhibitor of economic growth, to incentivise local authorities
  • A virtual voucher in childcare, with the money following the child to meet the needs of working parents
  • All government contractors should be compliant with the Prompt Payment Code, to end late payments culture
  • A one-stop-shop for government advice to business, with quicker progress on
  • Certified digital identification of angel investors to improve the efficiency of investment in small businesses

Commenting, Mr Thomson said:

“There are three key factors which should power long-term economic growth – investment in infrastructure, a focus on education, and low taxes. However, in the current financial climate we have to accept that these key factors can be difficult to alter substantially. With that in mind, we therefore have to look at other practical measures we can take to create a healthy business environment and squeeze out as much economic growth as possible.

“Most of our eleven recommendations involve powers which are either already devolved to the Scottish Parliament, or soon will be. Furthermore, Scotland is in a hugely advantageous position in that it is small enough to implement these policies quickly in order to create the attractive business environment which we need to create jobs and prosperity while also generating the money to finance schools, roads and other public spending.

“The World Bank ranks the UK 8th in its ‘Ease of Doing Business’ table. It would be good to think that if Scotland was ranked separately, it could be number one. That should be our aim.”