"THE Scottish Executive did not seek advice from the European Commission, the Inland Revenue or its own lawyers before unveiling a move to boost research and development by granting small firms business rates relief, the finance minister admitted yesterday.I suppose it's understandable. Picture the scenario: the First Minister and his special advisers sitting around in Bute House, desperate to come up with something to trump Mr Stephen's promise of further cuts in business rates. They settle on the R&D proposal but don't have time to clear it with the department before the First Minister's big speech on the legislative programme. Result: red faces all round. And deservedly so.
Tom McCabe made the confession as he confirmed that the scheme - announced last year by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, in an effort to trump a Liberal Democrat promise to further cut business rates - was being dropped.
The First Minister inserted the research and development (R&D) idea into a speech setting out last year's legislative programme after Nicol Stephen, the deputy first minister, pledged to go further than the Executive's agreed position of bringing business rates in Scotland into line with England.
However, the Executive conceded publicly for the first time yesterday that the plan - which would have cost £7 million this year and £15 million in 2007-8 - might contravene European Union rules which outlaw unfair state aid to companies."
20 September 2006
How not to be a minister
It's basically a question of simple competence. As a minister, you may think that you have a bright idea, but it is foolish to announce its implementation before you and your officials have checked it out. But that seems to be precisely what Mr McConnell has done. The Scotsman reports: