21 groups lobby Finance Secretary

Business unites to oppose the out-of-town rates levy

Derek Mackay

Derek Mackay: already said he has no plan to introduce the levy (pic: Terry Murden)


Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is under further pressure to scrap a controversial business rates levy for out of town premises.

He is facing opposition to the proposal from 21 of the country’s business organisations who have written a joint letter calling for the proposal to be dropped.

The proposed new business rates levy on commercial premises located out of town formed part of the Scottish Government’s Barclay Implementation consultation paper published on 25 June.

Mr Mackay has already stated that he has no plan to introduce the measure. However, it has been out to consultation.

The 21 organisations represent a wide cross section of Scottish industry including manufacturing, retail, energy, commercial property, construction, transport, leisure and tourism.

The collective call comes ahead of the Scottish Government’s Budget expected on 12 December. The text of the letter is as follows:  

Dear Finance Secretary,

We are writing to you ahead of the Cabinet’s consideration of the Non-Domestic Rates Bill to voice our concerns about the proposed implementation of an out of town levy, a policy that runs contrary to the rates reform agenda’s goal of supporting business growth and long-term investment, and which could ultimately damage Scotland’s competitiveness. 

We have always been keen to see the business rates system better flex with economic and trading conditions and as such welcome the thrust of the proposed Non-Domestic Rates Bill, especially more frequent revaluations and reducing the time taken between valuations and them coming into force.

However, we are profoundly concerned with the idea of giving local authorities the ability to levy an additional business rates charge on premises located out of town. We urge you not to proceed with this aspect of the legislation due to the potential impact it would have on a wide-range of vital businesses, many of them major employers in communities across Scotland.

Business rates remain onerous and a new levy would be a further burden on top of the existing headline poundage rate, large business supplement, and BID levy that many firms already pay. It would add complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system, and undermine commercial investment – standing at odds with the thrust of the broader Barclay rates reform agenda which is about ensuring competitiveness and minimising complexity.

We want Scotland to be a great place to do business. Dispensing with the proposed new rates levy would go some way to delivering on the government’s ambition of having the most competitive rates regime in the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin Partington, Director General, British Soft Drinks Association

Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland

Grahame Barn, Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland

Gordon Nelson, Director, Federation of Master Builders Scotland

David Thomson, Chief Executive, Food & Drink Federation Scotland

Elizabeth de Jong, UK Director of Policy, Freight Transport Association

Alex Vick, Senior Executive & Finance Director, Horticultural Trades Association

Alasdair Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Bakers

Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering

Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers’ Federation

Sarah-Jane Laing, Executive Director, Scottish Land & Estates

David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation

Claire Mack, Chief Executive, Scottish Renewables

David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance

Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association

Miles Beale, Chief Executive, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association

Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association

Willie Macleod, Executive Director – Scotland, UKHospitality

Peter Ward, Chief Executive, UK Warehousing Association

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