Campaign Focus On House Buyers & Business

Help for house-buyers, businesses and Scotland's rural and island communities will be highlighted today by rival parties on the Holyrood campaign trail.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will visit a cider maker in East Lothian to set out what the SNP would do to develop the rural economy if re-elected to power in May.

There she will pledge: "Our rural economy is key to Scotland's long-term success - and a re-elected SNP government will take real action to fully unlock the economic potential of our rural communities.''

But Tory leader Ruth Davidson will stress the importance of not raising taxes in Scotland above the UK level as she makes a campaign visit to a company in Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish Conservative will use her visit to Ace Winches in Turriff to "focus on policies which will grow the economy, create jobs, and so increase the revenue available for government to spend on schools and hospitals''.

She will say: "I have made it clear that we would freeze business rates to offer a helping hand to businesses during tough times, ahead of a full review.

"Employers also tell me they need to see a skills revolution in Scotland - that's why we propose the creation of new Skills Academies to give young people technical training.

"And most important of all, we need to keep competitive tax rates so that we do not get a reputation as the highest taxed part of the UK.''

Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will set out how his party would help island communities as he heads to Orkney.

He will promise that "families and businesses in the Northern Isles get the sort of help on ferry fares that has been available to people in other parts of Scotland for years'' through the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme.

Mr Rennie will also say: "We will compensate farmers who have been hit by extra bank charges as a result of SNP incompetence on farm payments and ensure that every home in the Isles benefits from high speed broadband.''

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will pledge her party would use new powers coming to Holyrood to help the record 275,000 Scots under the age of 34 who are still living with their parents.

Labour has unveiled plans to help first-time buyers save for a deposit, with up to £3,000 available to those who take up a special ISA saving scheme.

It has also promised to build 60,000 affordable homes over the next five years, including 45,000 council and housing association properties.

Ms Dugdale, who will be campaigning in Motherwell, said: "Austerity has robbed a generation of young people of aspiration. That's why Labour has bold plans to help first-time buyers.

"So many young people in Scotland are stuck in a cycle from which they can't escape. They end up renting to save for a deposit, but the rent is so high they simply can't put enough money away. That's why so many young people have no choice but to live at home.

"Labour will help first-time buyers save for a deposit so that a couple each saving £100 per month can expect to have a £15,000 deposit after three years.

"We'll pay for it by reversing the SNP's plan to cut air passenger duty. We think helping a working class family own a home is more important than making a business class flight cheaper.

"This is how Scottish Labour will use the new powers coming to Scotland to not only reject austerity but give everyone a fair chance in life.''

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