Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of being at war with the Scottish business community.
Speaking following a campaign visit to Aberdeenshire on Sunday, the Foreign Secretary claimed Ms Sturgeon does not know how tough it is to start a company and suggested he would give greater support to businesses in Scotland if he becomes Prime Minister.
Mr Hunt is standing against Boris Johnson in the race to succeed Theresa May at Number 10, with the winner of the contest due to be announced in mid-July.
“The difference between me and Nicola Sturgeon is one of us has started a business,” Mr Hunt said.
“I know what it takes, how tough it can be to get a company going.
“Nicola doesn’t and it shows in the way she treats the Scottish business community.
“So my argument with Nicola Sturgeon isn’t just about the union. It’s about her war on business.
“We’ve seen business rates going up, putting Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.
“Income taxes on ordinary people going up so they’ve got less money to spend in the shops.”
Mr Hunt also criticised proposals to introduce a workplace parking levy, under which employers could pay an annual tax to participating local authorities for every parking space they provide for employees.
He said: “The car park tax is naive and foolish. It’s a tax on workers that hits poorer people more than it hits the wealthy.
“If you back business, you create opportunities for everyone and generate more money for public services.
“My Government would treat the concerns of a small business struggling in Edinburgh just as importantly as a major employer in the city of London.
“They wouldn’t have to wait patiently for the SNP’s support, they would have mine.”
A spokesman for Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “These claims are plain wrong and Jeremy Hunt should be embarrassed by them – but it just shows how little he actually knows or cares about Scotland.
“Not only does Scotland have the most competitive business rates in the UK – lower than those imposed by the Tory Government he is part of – but the majority of people pay less in income tax and lower council tax than they would in England, whilst seeing more money invested in public services.
“This kind of ill-informed comment from someone who wants to be PM simply shows why Scotland is moving towards independence.”