By a Newsnet reporter
The Scotsman newspaper is facing further ridicule today after publishing yet another article attacking First Minister Alex Salmond after HMRC failed to obtain Corporation Tax payments from online retailer Amazon.
The paper’s editor was forced to defend the publication yesterday after readers derided an article from journalist Andrew Whitaker that contained attacks on Mr Salmond for providing the company with £10 million of funding in order to secure investment that created thousands of jobs.
Friday’s leading article followed revelations that the Westminster controlled HMRC had allowed a loophole to remain that resulted in the company paying little or no corporation tax in the UK despite carrying out business worth billions.
However, despite Editor Kenny Farquharson describing the Labour and Lib Dem condemnation contained in Friday’s article as “inexplicable”, the paper has claimed in today’s edition that the First Minister is now “under mounting pressure to come clean”.
The “mounting pressure” appears to be based on quotes from three opposition politicians including Labour MSP John Park.
The follow up article contains several quotes from opposition politicians including Mr Park, Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie and Green MSP Patrick Harvie who have demanded to know whether the global giant would face paying corporation tax in an independent Scotland.
The decision by the Scotsman newspaper to give the attacks such a high profile has bewildered Nationalists and Unionists alike.
The articles have resulted in unexpected support for the First Minister from Professor Brian Ashcroft who said emphatically that there should be no criticism of the Scottish Government over the £10 investment.
The academic said: “To criticise Amazon’s business model and the quality of the jobs provided as some have done is again a red herring. The critical question is what would the counterfactual have been to the investments? In non jargon: what would have happened if the Scottish government had not paid the £10.6 million to Amazon in grants?”
Professor Ashcroft’s comments were linked in a re-tweet by former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander, the academic’s wife.
Responding to the attacks, a spokesperson for the First Minister said:
“One of the many advantages of an independent Scotland is that a competitive corporation tax regime will make it more attractive for companies to route activity through Scotland, and thus tax revenue. Under devolution, the Scottish Parliament doesn’t get a penny of the corporation tax raised in Scotland.
“Last year, we published a report showing how having a 3 per cent lower rate than the rest of the UK would boost output and create 27,000 in the medium to longer term.
“When their recruitment is complete, Amazon will have up to 5,000 jobs in Scotland at peak periods – surely no opposition politician in Scotland is seriously suggesting that we should not have that employment. Indeed, when Amazon invested in Scotland last year, there were howls of protest from politicians in North East England that they had lost out.
“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting small business, and our Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) is just one example of how we are making a positive difference for small businesses across Scotland.
“The Small Business Bonus and other reliefs combined give Scottish business a competitive edge – over 85,000 properties now benefit from the Small Business Bonus as part of the most generous package of reliefs anywhere in the UK – a figure which represents two out of every five commercial premises in Scotland, and 54 per cent of shops in Scotland benefit from the small bonus scheme.”
Speaking to the Scotsman, John Park said: “The SNP say that we’re going to be independent soon after 2016, so would Amazon start paying the tax then. The SNP can’t on the one hand say that they want Scandinavian public services and then back a regressive corporation tax system that allows companies like Amazon to get away without paying anything.
“We now need to know what discussions Alex Salmond has had with Amazon about what its tax status would be in an independent Scotland or if corporation tax powers were to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”
The row over the articles follow questions over an online poll carried out by the newspaper yesterday in which thousands of ‘votes’ were apparently recorded in the early hours of Friday for a pro-Unionist stance on the date for an independence referendum.
The ‘votes’ leapt by several thousand and halted with support for an early referendum running at around 70%, close to the claims by the UK Government following their referendum consultation.
However the numbers mysteriously began to level off when suspicions were raised from scores of online readers who called into question the sudden surge.