Ministers accused over competition pledge

Holyrood’s retail tax take ‘at odds’ with promises

David Lonsdale seriousA retail industry leader has accused Scottish government ministers of failing to live up to their promise of operating “the most competitive business rates in the UK”.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said newly published figures show that the government expects an extra £60 million in tax revenues from larger retailers in the coming financial year.

The additional revenue is a result of the Scottish Government’s decision to double the business rates supplement paid by firms operating from medium and larger sized premises.

The report also highlights how the amount collected in business rates overall is expected to have swollen from £2.2 billion to £2.8bn over the past 5 years, up 22%.

Mr Lonsdale said: “The above-inflation hike in the business rates supplement to be levied from April on firms operating from medium and larger sized commercial premises is troubling, and is at odds with repeated claims from Scottish Ministers to be pursuing the most competitive rates regime in the UK.

“Not only will these businesses  be forking out more in business rates than firms operating in comparable premises elsewhere in the UK, but our fear is that this will open the door to even higher taxes next year if there is another shortfall in expected revenues.”

Mr Lonsdale has campaigned for reform of the business rates system, which he says is “not fit for purpose.

He added: “Retailers and others are already having to grapple with the cumulative burden of a hotchpotch of government-imposed costs including the new apprenticeship levy, the national living wage, higher employer pension contributions and a mooted new deposit return scheme for drinks containers which is estimated to cost retailers £86 million.”

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