Official data showing Scotland's gross domestic product for the end of last year have not yet been published by the Scottish Government, but most indications suggest that Scotland emerged from recession in the fourth quarter of 2009, although the recovery is fragile. The Government are committed to doing all that is necessary to help to drive recovery in the Scottish economy.
The Minister and the Secretary of State will be aware that, in the past two years, 466 Scottish companies have been shut down by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for not paying their bills on time. Currently, many solvent companies in Scotland are being pushed towards liquidation because of HMRC's actions. Will they have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get him to take the heat off those solvent companies, so that they can continue to trade and pay their bills?
As I said earlier, the Inland Revenue already has a business support package, which we introduced last year, to defer tax payments. More than 18,000 Scottish businesses have benefited and more than £300 million of tax has already been deferred. It is, however, important that HMRC is operationally independent, and its job is to protect the interests of the UK taxpayer.