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Budget must deliver for hard-working Scottish businesses

Tomorrow's Budget statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be the last before the referendum on Scottish independence.

So far this year, we have heard much from the UK ­Government about the case for Scotland to remain within the Union. In a speech last month, the Prime Minister said: "I will fight with everything I have to keep us together."

Well, the Budget presents an important opportunity to put this commitment to the test. Every Budget, whether Scottish or UK, should be about supporting Scotland's businesses.

It is our private sector that has been creating jobs in ­Scotland - over 75,000 in the past year - and it is our ­hard-working businesses across the country that are returning Scotland to a path of growth following a lengthy period of recession.

There are many things the Chancellor could do to deliver a pre-referendum boost to Scotland. Some would benefit businesses throughout the UK, while others could be targeted specifically on Scotland.

In tax terms, the continuing trend in the reduction of corporation tax is welcome, but this is a tax on profits and, in any event, this tax is not paid by many smaller businesses and partnerships.

Our members have indicated that action to mitigate the burden of other business taxes may now be more important, such as employers' national insurance. Another tax which affects ­Scotland's ability to compete is air passenger duty (APD). Some have dismissed this as a 'holiday tax' but while this tax penalises travel for all purposes, it is the economic impact of APD that is most concerning and we would contend that it is a tax on trade and investment, making Scotland an unnecessarily less competitive place to do business.

Over the past year, Scotland's economy has been heading in the right direction, at present driven largely by domestic consumer demand.

However, much of this can be accounted for by deferred ­spending and, with household disposable income still pressured, we cannot rely on the consumer to power a sustainable recovery.

Instead, we must look towards business investment in expansion and new products and services; and that is what ­Scottish businesses are really looking for in this Budget: a ­package of measures which will assist with their investment plans and which will make ­Scotland an even better place to do business.

All eyes will be on this Budget to judge whether it or not delivers for Scotland.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce

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