MSPs welcome business rates relief announcement

Tuesday February 21st 2017

Scottish Parliament Debating Chamber 2016

Andy Wightman MSP, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said today’s package of measures from the Scottish Government to address concerns about business rates shows the need for proper scrutiny of Holyrood’s second-biggest source of income.

Amid concerns that revaluation will mean larger bills for some businesses, the Finance Secretary has announced that increases will be capped for hotels, pubs and cafes, as well as offices in Aberdeen City and Shire, and for small-scale hydro schemes. Reliefs will also be available for community renewables and district heating schemes.

Tomorrow, Andy Wightman will prompt a debate at Holyrood’s Local Government Committee about the lack of scrutiny of business rates by attempting to annul the Non-Domestic Rate (Scotland) Order 2017.

Andy Wightman, Local Government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

“This last-minute package of measures from Scottish Ministers underlines the need for proper scrutiny of non-domestic rates, which generate almost £3 billion a year for council services. If local councils had more control over this vital economic tool they would be better able to respond to local needs, avoiding the kind of uncertainty many small businesses have faced in recent months.

“The need to open up discussion of this issue is clear, and I look forward to ministers’ response to my bid in committee to annul their Non-Domestic Rates Order.”

Local MSP Christine Grahame has welcomed the Scottish Government’s proposals on business rates.

The announcement was made following growing critiscm of Scotland’s finance secretary and the proposed Business rates increases. The Conservatives today said the government had been “asleep at the wheel” over the issue.

These relief proposals will provide support for hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafes, which had previously been facing the most significant rises following the 2015 revaluation.

Overall, the complete package of Scottish Government relief will ensure that 60% of Midlothian businesses will see either no change or a decrease in their business rates bill – with more businesses being entitled to support through the small business bonus scheme. The Scottish Government had already taken action to reduce the rates poundage to help businesses who have seen a revaluation.

Commenting, Ms Grahame said:

“This support for the tourism and hospitality sectors is especially welcome given these industries were left facing substantial hikes in their rates bills. I’ve been approached by a number of local hospitality businesses who have been worried about this and the cap of a 12.5% increase for the next financial year provides reassurance to hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes, and indeed their employees, throughout Midlothian.

“This, along with the package of support available to small businesses, is substantially more support than the Tories are offering South of the Border.

“A review of the business rates system is currently underway and due to report to the Scottish Government in July. I understand they are taking on board the concerns raised by the hospitality sector with regards to disproportionate rises and will be actively engaging with them to ensure any future proposals take this into account.”

Responding to this afternoon’s statement by the Finance Secretary on support for business and the economy, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said:

“Finally the Scottish Government has realised the seriousness of the problems facing businesses across Scotland. In 2010 the SNP and Conservatives voted down a cap of 12.5% at the last revaluation, so I welcome their change of heart this time.

“However, the underlying problem still remains. What is the point of having a fundamental independent review if the Scottish Government is intent on frenzied changes to business rates?

“The best answer is a moratorium on changes to business rates until the government gets its act together. Just like on council tax the SNP is set to ignore its own expert review while they cobble together their own chaotic ad hoc changes.”

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