Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond hit the campaign trail in Ellon last Saturday as he spearheaded the SNP’s efforts to secure a second term in in government, as well as his own attempt to win election in the new Aberdeenshire East constituency.
Together with local councillors and activists, Mr Salmond went on a morning walkabout through Ellon, where he met with local small businesses which had benefited from the Scottish Government’s reduction in their rates bills.
During his visit, Mr Salmond spoke with Tracy Gibb, owner of “Delicious Sandwich” takeaway and coffee bar. Ms Gibb, who is also chairman of the Ellon Traders Association, said: “People come to me as for advice in starting up new businesses in the area and it can be extremely hard to get your foot in the door.
“The small business bonus has been invaluable in giving new businesses that extra help to get up and running”.
Mr Salmond then moved on to The Flower Shop and Mackenzie Kilts.
Linda Rae, owner of the Flower Shop, said: “The small business bonus has been a massive relief during the recession. Rates were a noose around our neck and the small business bonus means we are free to make a profit and keep our business afloat.”
Mackenzie Kilts owner Moira Ironside added: “It’s been really hard going for small businesses but having our rates abolished means we have one less bill to pay. Things are really picking up. We’ve been in business for 13 years and now we will hopefully be here for 13 more.”
Speaking exclusively to the Ellon Times, Mr Salmond highlighted the economy as the main election issue, describing the business rates relief as a ‘Godsend’.
He continued: “There’s no doubt that our High Streets would have been decimated without the small business bonus and it was exactly the right thing to do. And the people who voted against it like the Labour Party and the Liberals should be changing their minds and should come to talk to these small shopkeepers.
“What we’ve got to do in Scotland is understand that our resources are financing the Chancellor’s budget and it would be a nice idea if our resources financed the future of Scotland instead.
Turning to the national election picture, Mr Salmond said: “The SNP has high hopes at this election and across Scotland, it’s a two horse race between ourselves and Labour.”