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Lonsdale calls for more reform

Retail chief unimpressed by rates relief scheme

David LonsdaleA retail leader has poured cold water on the Scottish Government’s rates relief scheme, even though businesses will pay nothing on 100,000 properties.

Derek Mackay confirmed the initiative – first announced in last month’s Budget – ahead of a debate on the government’s spending plans in parliament.

He announced that the Small Business Bonus Scheme will be expanded, raising the eligibility threshold for 100% relief to a rateable value of £15,000 – lifting 100,000 properties out of rates altogether, and generating a saving of up to £6,990 per property.

However, David Lonsdale director of the Scottish Retail Consortium (pictured), said three-quarters of retail jobs are in businesses which receive no rates relief.

“Indeed for these firms the amount paid in business rates has for many years borne little regard to trading or economic conditions.

“The Review of Rates led by Ken Barclay (see interview) must recast business rates for the decade ahead and deliver a reformed system which is modern, sustainable and competitive.

“A fundamentally reformed rates system and substantially lower tax burden would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”

Mr Mackay insisted the SBBS has already saved small businesses over £1.2 billion since the scheme was introduced in 2008.

He said: “This government has consistently delivered a competitive environment for business and we have used our tax powers to support growth. 

“Not only have we ensured that smaller businesses pay zero or lower rates of non-residential LBTT, large businesses enjoy a lower rate than the rest of the UK.

“I was pleased to set out a range of further measures in the Draft Budget to confirm a highly competitive business rates regime for Scotland in 2017-18, including expanding the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

“Scotland’s small businesses are fundamental drivers in securing sustainable economic growth, which is why we are doing everything we can to support them. 

“Scotland already offers the most competitive reliefs package for small businesses in the UK, and we intend to keep our promise that Scotland will be the best place to do business anywhere in the UK.”

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