Economy Secretary To Set Out Plans

Scotland's first dedicated Economy Secretary is to set out details of his plans to make the country more productive.

Keith Brown, who was appointed to the role in a Cabinet reshuffle after the election, said innovation and investment, together with tackling inequality, could help make the country more productive.

He pledged a "clear and unrelenting focus'' on creating a competitive environment for business.

Holyrood is to hold its first economy debate of the new parliament on Tuesday afternoon, with Mr Brown stressing that "despite uncertain global conditions, and falling oil prices, our economy has continued to grow over the last year''.

He said the "fundamentals of our economy remain strong'', but added that "we must substantially build on this position to help our firms and our people reach their full potential''.

Speaking ahead of the debate, the Economy Secretary said: "Today I will set out our plan to make Scotland a more productive country through innovation, investment, internationalisation and inclusive growth.

"At the heart of our actions will be a clear and unrelenting focus on creating a competitive and supportive business environment.

"I will listen carefully to constructive ideas about how we can support our economic growth put forward by MSPs from across the chamber during the debate.''

He said Scotland is already a "very attractive location for business growth and inward investment'', pointing to research last week which ranked Scotland second to London for overseas investment across the UK.

Mr Brown continued: "That is why we'll aim to raise productivity and prosperity through the traditional drivers of investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation.

"My appointment as a dedicated Cabinet Secretary for the Economy should send a clear signal of this Government's focus on stimulating growth, protecting and creating jobs and promoting Scotland as a great place to do business.''

Conservatives will use the debate to call for changes to be made to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), which has replaced stamp duty on property sales in Scotland.

Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser will insist charges have been set too high, causing "a slowdown in the housing market at the upper ends, and a decline in tax revenues''.

But he will say that "even a minor tweak could end the stagnation and bring in more, much needed, tax revenue''.

Green MSP John Finnie will call for more investment in decommissioning, renewables and energy efficiency programmes to counter the challenges faced by the oil and gas sector.

He said: "The decline of the oil and gas sector must be met with a managed transition to new industries rather than ever deeper tax cuts to encourage the extraction of resources that are ultimately unburnable.

"By investing now in viable alternatives such as decommissioning, renewables and energy efficient housing, we can transfer workers' skills and provide the long-term stability local economies across urban and rural Scotland need.''

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