Newsnet Main Articles
By Martin Kelly
Ed Miliband's pledge to reduce business rates for small businesses in England has left Scottish Labour MSPs red faced.
Mr Miliband has pledged to introduce an £800m tax break for small firms as part of a mission to make Labour "the party of small business".
The Labour leader revealed that his party's first act in government, if it wins the 2015 general election, will be a reversal of a planned hike in small business rates. Labour will then freeze the rate the following year.
However, the plan is at odds with Scottish Labour's stance with several high profile Labour MSPs already stating opposition to blanket tax breaks for businesses.
Speaking in November 2011, Labour MSP Ken MacIntosh called for the SNP's business rates relief scheme to be scrapped and the cash spent creating jobs for young people.
Mr MacIntosh's comments followed similar criticisms from Holyrood colleague Kezia Dugdale who, appearing on Call Kaye on 13 October 2011, said: "If you look at some of the stuff they [the SNP] have done over the last four years, like bridge tolls, freezing the council tax, prescription charges, business rates down, and now their plans to cut corporation tax - they're all tax cuts, they're all very much right-wing economics."
Another to question financial support to small firms was Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who in 2008 criticised the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which she said was offering a "blanket reward" with "no conditions".
She said: "I am concerned by the Government's approach to the small business bonus scheme, which is in sharp contrast to its approach to other areas of expenditure.
"I am not anti-business - I am in close contact with businesses in my community - but it is the job of Government to reward good business and not simply to give a blanket reward to all business."
She added: "It is clear that any Government expenditure has to be targeted, justified and evaluated if that Government is to be prudent in its approach."
Commenting on Mr Miliband’s support for small businesses, SNP MP Angus Robertson claimed Labour were now "playing catch-up with the SNP government" on areas such as help for small businesses, "even though Labour in Scotland regularly attack our Small Business Bonus Scheme, and have even called for it to be scrapped".
On Mr Miliband's pledge to freeze household energy bills for two years, Mr Robertson pointed out the Labour leader did nothing when last in power.
"Mr Miliband also has a credibility problem as wide as the Clyde in terms of his policy proposals - he was, after all, Secretary of State for Energy in the last UK Labour Government and took no action to address soaring fuel bills.
"Scotland is blessed with vast energy resources, yet under successive Westminster governments - Labour and Tory - suffers from unacceptable levels of fuel poverty amid this energy plenty."