Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 25th May 2004.

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Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport 11:30 am, 25th May 2004

The policy for rates rests with the Scottish Executive, who have put in place a number of measures to reduce the rates burden that Scottish businesses face. The hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that we need to look all the time at whether we can improve the situation and reduce burdens. The Government are committed to that, but one of the best things that we have done for Scottish business is to create a strong, stable economy with low interest rates. The result is low unemployment and lower debts, and we do not have the problems that the previous Conservative Government encountered.

We also need to ensure that we create the right sort of environment in which businesses can thrive. It is interesting that more and more of the recent studies that have been published—although it is true that they do not all paint the same picture—contain a sense of optimism that Scottish business has good prospects under this Government and under the Scottish Executive.