Business Bodies Unite to Call for Rates Freeze
Nineteen leading business representative groups and industry bodies have jointly written to the Scottish Government’s Deputy First Minister and Interim Finance Secretary asking him to freeze the business rate in the coming financial year.
The nineteen organisations represent a broad cross section of Scottish industry and commerce, including retailers, wholesalers, engineering manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and leisure.
The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Scottish Government’s Budget on 15 December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs and thresholds for the 2023-24 financial year.
Scotland’s business rate is already at a 23-year high. Last week in the UK Government’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the business rate in England would not increase next April.
The joint letter from the business representative and trade bodies was submitted to John Swinney MSP, the Scottish Government’s Interim Finance Secretary, earlier this week. The text of the letter was:
Dear Deputy First Minister,
We are writing jointly ahead of the Scottish Budget to ask that you do not increase the poundage rate in the coming financial year.
We fully recognise that the Scottish Government, like business, is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time. We note too that headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform including more frequent revaluations, the retention of the uniform business rate, and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England which should benefit 12,000 commercial premises here in Scotland.
Yet, after two turbulent years of the pandemic the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business is spiralling, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. Given the decision taken in the UK Autumn Statement we ask that at the very least Scottish Ministers follow suit and similarly freeze the headline business rate poundage in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crisis, help them keep down prices for customers, and ensure that no more Scottish commercial premises than currently do end up paying a higher business rate than applies down south. It would support business investment and retain Scotland’s competitiveness for most ratepayers.
Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could be improved. However, we collectively believe this practical measure to at least freeze the business rate requires to be taken in your upcoming Scottish Budget, which would be a positive step applicable to all commercial premises and help ease the burden at this difficult time.
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
Sandy Begbie CBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise
Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association
Marc Crothall MBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance
Huw Edwards, CEO, ukactive
Mark Kent, Chief Executive, Scotch Whisky Association
Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates
Warrick Malcolm, Director, ADS Scotland
Catherine McWilliam, Nations Director, IoD Scotland
David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
Gordon Nelson, Scotland Director, Federation of Master Builders
Garry Richmond, Director, Print Scotland
Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering
Alasdair Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Bakers
Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association
David Thomson, Chief Executive, Food & Drink Federation Scotland
Leon Thompson, Executive Director, UKHospitality Scotland
For media enquiries:
Scottish Retail Consortium