IN every General Election I can remember, it’s the party that best convinces voters it can be trusted with the economy – and, hence, you and your family’s finances – that’s in the strongest position come polling day. That’s particularly the case when the country is going through tough economic times.

So, I wasn’t exactly surprised that the main parties all kicked off their campaigns hammering home their economic growth credentials. I was, however, quite encouraged by the extent to which they were so robustly and explicitly pro-growth, acknowledging that without a functioning, growing economy, they can’t implement any of their policies.

Colin Borland: Scotland's 'latte levy' must be designed for the real world

And as the campaign has progressed, the rhetoric has been backed by some real policies from the main parties vying to form the next UK Government.

Even before their official manifesto launch, for example, Labour had announced a small business plan including steps to improve access to banking services, stamp out late payment, and give small firms a fairer crack of the whip when it comes to bidding for public contracts. The manifesto itself commits to implement this plan, should they form the next government.

The Conservatives are promising to scrap national insurance contributions for the self-employed and freeze capital gains tax. They’ve also pledged to protect business asset disposal relief, a boost for small business owners who regard sale of their business as their pension plan.

At the same time, however, there’s always the danger that the parties will fall into the trap of being seduced by the latest big, shiny stuff and putting all their eggs in the basket labelled “the next big thing”.

Praise for ‘tenacious and clever’ small businesses

Pushing fashionable or new sectors, or pursuing unicorn start-ups with stratospheric growth projections, is all very well, but politicians can’t lose sight of the small and micro firms which make up 98% of our business base. In Scotland, these firms employ 900,000 people and turn over £82 billion every year, so the sort of daily bread-and-butter issues which affect their bottom lines really do matter if we want to get the economy back on its feet.

That’s why we need to debate some of the nuts and bolts around what sort of trading environment the major parties are aiming to create, should they get the keys to Number 10. They could, for example, raise the VAT threshold to £100,000 and then uprate it in line with inflation. That, along with a smoothing mechanism for businesses when they hit the threshold, would stop firms turning down business just to avoid registration.

Swinney’s focus should be on actions to make a difference to business

On cash flow, they could get small firms paid on time by giving the audit committees of big corporations oversight for payment practices, improving reporting and exposing late payers.

The Employment Allowance – effectively a threshold for employers’ national insurance contributions – could be raised from £5,000 to £6,500 and then automatically uprated in line with any increases in the National Living Wage.

They could also help firms get the finance they need to fund expansion plans by cracking down on lenders’ excessive use of personal guarantees, which force entrepreneurs to put their homes or other assets on the line when seeking even modest sums.

I could go on. Indeed, there are over 150 practical policy proposals in the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) election manifesto, many of which would cost nothing to implement.

The point, though, is that while the election debate in Scotland has (regrettably) often strayed into devolved matters, there are many levers which the next UK Government can pull to support business growth north of the Border. And we deserve, indeed require, a proper debate on how they should be used over the next parliament.

The outcome of this election won’t dictate business rates, income tax rates and bands, or the shape of enterprise agencies here in Scotland.

But it will determine a host of tax rules and incentives, finance options, employment law and much more.

It’s time to take VAT out of the ‘too-difficult’ box

FSB research suggests more than half of small business owners are still to make a final decision on who to vote for, so there’s everything to play for ahead of July 4. With 335,000 self-employed individuals and small business owners in Scotland alone, using the next week-and-a-half to make the business case to them should be all parties’ priority.

Colin Borland is director of devolved nations for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)