Labour leader Ed Miliband's moves to improve his pro-enterprise credentials in the eyes of Scottish business have received a guarded welcome, following a keynote speech last week to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

In his appearance in Glasgow on Friday, Miliband sketched out more details of his vision for "inclusive prosperity" and paid tribute to the "resilience, the ingenuity, the brilliance of Scottish business in the face of deep economic difficulties".

Appearing on the platform with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont MSP and leader of the Better Together leader Alistair Darling MP, Miliband devoted much of his keynote speech to promoting the benefits of the Union in advance of the September referendum, describing the UK as "one of the most successful economic and social justice units the world has ever seen".

Loading article content

But as well as reinforcing the case for a No vote, much of his speech appeared designed to allay suspicions that previous rhetoric against utility companies and the financial services betokened a fundamentally anti-business mind set on behalf of the Labour leader and his team. Instead Miliband stressed the importance of "long-termism" in policy making, an apparent response to business feedback about stop-start policy-making driven by the electoral cycle.

"We have a commitment to long-termism, as short-term government decision making blights business," said Miliband.

Miliband cited Labour's proposed "infrastructure commission" which, he said, will "identify the needs of the whole country so we can plan ahead, not just for one year but for 10 or 20 years".

Other long-term commitments include a pledge to "balance the books" and "supporting competitive markets where they are working and reforming them where they are not".

Miliband, along with Lamont, also gave assurances of further devolution in the event of a No vote, and applied pressure on the Yes campaign's perceived weak spot on the currency question, saying: "As Prime Minister I couldn't agree to a currency union with an independent Scotland".

"I want business to have the certainty of the pound. I cannot support a Euro-area-style currency union," he said.

"It is not just the Labour Party that takes this view, workers agree with managers and business owners, trade unions agree with the CBI, in fact we have unprecedented agreement between Scottish businesses and Scottish unions about the need to keep the pound."

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: "This was the final event as part of our series of discussions with the UK and Scottish political leaders. We already had conversations with the Prime Minister David Cameron, the First Minister Alex Salmond and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Businesses were presented with the Labour Party's case for remaining in the United Kingdom, but the speakers also presented their thoughts moving past the referendum.

"It was refreshing to hear a politician advocating the need for government to be adopting a long-term strategy rather than the normal short-term political cycles," she said.

"This is an area we have been advocating for some time - businesses do not operate with a short-term plan. We were encouraged to hear a pro-business message which drew empathy from our members, particularly on skills, infrastructure and partnerships with the private sector as we move ahead."

One leading Scottish business leader, who asked not to be named, said: "I thought he was quite good, he gives the impression that he knows the difference between talking about things and doing things, and I very much like the long-term view. He's been on this anti-business kick and he realises that he has to swing round from that.

"Although transport is a devolved matter, I think that the infrastructure commission would be good for Scotland. If we had a more UK-focused infrastructure overview like he is suggesting we might have a more sensible energy mix in Scotland."