Politicians from across the spectrum were grilled on issues affecting Scotland’s 300,000 self-employed and one-man band business owners at an event at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu hotel last night.

Members of IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, heard from a panel chaired by Herald columnist Catriona Stewart, who discussed the urgent need for broadband connectivity and calls to halt changes to taxation for the self-employed that has been predicted to raise £1.3 billion for the Treasury in in next two years.

Dean Lockhart MSP, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work at Holyrood, went on the attack, highlighting that the Scottish Government was set to miss a target of rolling out “superfast broadband” to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.

Ivan McKee, the SNP Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation at Holyrood, said the Government still had two years to meet the target, adding he was “proud” the Scottish Government has reached 95% of broadband roll out despite the UK Government having “abdicated responsibility” for the extension.

Paul Sweeney, the Labour candidate for Glasgow North East who had been Shadow Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, defended his party’s proposal to nationalise broadband services and offer it free to users, paid through the tax system.

He compared the proposals to the roll out of nationalised water systems and the NHS, and said claims the policy was “communist” were due to “profiteering” and vested interests.

Carole Ford, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Glasgow South and the party’s Children and Young People spokesperson, said Labour’s broadband policy was “so expensive

it didn’t bear thinking about”. She added that publicly-owned monopolies were unlikely to offer a better alternative to current provision.

IR35, the controversial reform to corporation tax, also dominated the debate. Due to come into force in April 2020, the change aims to address contractors who are in “disguised employment” and should instead be paid – and taxed – like employees rather than as companies which pay 19% corporation tax.

All the politicians on the panel said IR35 needed to be reviewed or delayed, while Mr Sweeney claimed it was an “idiotic government policy”.

A member of the audience, who works in the engineering sector and has clients “running about like headless chickens” ahead of changes to IR35, said they [the changes] needed to be addressed urgently.

Ms Ford said the LibDem’s “short-term solution” was to suspend IR35. But she said the issues were complex and required further consultation. “One man’s freelancer is another’s zero-hours worker. The whole area needs to be reviewed for something that is logical and fair to all parties,” she said.

Mr McKee said the Conservatives had to take responsibility for the fact the changes were coming in April even if they were now saying the implementation should be delayed.

He added: “The Tories brought these changes in. That’s what’s driving that behaviour change. Meanwhile clock is ticking. We opposed those changes, those changes should be cancelled. That is the SNP’s position.”