THE Scottish Budget will allow businesses to claim they would be better treated under the Tories and must be amended, Alex Salmond has said.

The former first minister’s intervention comes amid a continuing row over the Scottish Government’s decision not to replicate the UK Government’s 75% business rates relief for leisure companies.

Debating the draft Scottish Budget earlier in December, SNP Finance Secretary Shona Robison said the government had £320 million available in consequentials, of which £260m would be needed to copy the Tory government’s rate.

“Business tax cuts over NHS funding. That is not the priorities of the Scottish Government,” she said.

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But Alba party leader Salmond has argued that business rate relief should be brought in in Scotland, saying: “If you want to build a case for independence you can’t allow Scottish medium and large businesses to claim they would be better treated under the Tories in England or even Labour in Wales.”

In Wales, hospitality businesses are to be given a 40% rate relief.

Salmond added: “The draft Budget, if it is not amended, will leave a key sector of Scottish business in a worse position than those south of the Border.

“Not only does that risk job losses, threaten supply chains and further diminishment to our town and city centres, it is politically naive.”

The Alba leader pointed to figures which suggest Scottish hospitality business have been closing down at twice the rate of those in England.

In December, industry magazine the Caterer reported: “Scotland saw 76 pub closures in Q1 to Q3 of this year, compared to 56 in 2022. This has resulted in permanent closures in the sector accelerating at double the rate in Scotland (1.7%) than in England (0.75%).”

On Boxing Day, an Edinburgh pub announced it would be closing down due to pressures of inflation and cost of living, with the lack of rate relief in the Scottish Budget the “final straw”.

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Salmond (above) added: “Over the past few months Scottish hospitality trade bodies have lobbied government with regard to the financial pressures that the industry is under, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

He further argued that building a strong case for independence “starts with the foundation of a competent government that doesn’t let important sectors of the economy believe they would get a better deal from a Tory UK Government”.

Salmond went on: “The government I led improved the lives of people across Scotland and established the social contract that protects our universal entitlement to free tuition, prescriptions and many more vital services.

“For much of the period from 2007, Scottish growth and employment rates outperformed those of the UK for the first time in generations, much of it led by small business benefiting from very generous rates relief.”