Political row breaks out over Tory Business Gateway claims

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Murdo Fraser MSP

The Scottish Government has accused Conservative MSPs of making “demonstrably false” accusations about the number of businesses supported by Business Gateway.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser claimed the number of businesses supported by the “Scottish Government quango” across Fife and Tayside had “hit a new low”.

He said according to statistics, start-up support is at a seven-year low, with 386 fewer businesses supported now compared to 2011.

Across Scotland, the total sums invested also fell to their lowest, he added, with the £12.6 million spent in 2016/17 around £1m less than eight years ago.

The MSP added statistics obtained by the Scottish Conservatives also revealed the birth and date rate of businesses north of the border is worse than the UK average.

The Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary said: “Business Gateway provides essential support for many start-up businesses right across the country, but it is seriously concerning to see their backing in Fife and Tayside drop to a seven-year low.

“Businesses supported by this quango are the firms we hope will create jobs, boost growth and create a stronger economy overall for Scotland.

“So it’s extremely concerning to learn fewer have been using the free support of Business Gateway, and it’s yet another indication of the cost of having an anti-business SNP government.

“If you take these findings along with the fact more Scottish businesses are dying, while fewer are being created, it paints a grim picture.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson responded: “This accusation is demonstrably false.

“These figures only take into account the businesses which started up as a result of visiting offices.”

They added that Business Gateway’s annual report clearly showed more than 11,000 jobs were created by 10,629 new business start-ups in 2016-17, thanks to a combination of face to face, online and telephone support.

And, he added: “Furthermore, the Business Gateway scheme is operated by local authorities, not the Scottish Government.

“Scottish Government funding for local authorities to provide business support has remained at a consistent level over the period in question, and it is up to local authorities to determine this spending.”