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Economic Action Plan

Call to ‘de-clutter’ support system and focus on key issues

Andrew McRae

Andrew McRae: the landscape is littered with countless online ‘one-stop shops’

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has been urged to “de-clutter” the business support system and take more concrete action on issues such as business rates.

Small business champion Andrew McRae said the Scottish Government’s refreshed Economic Action Plan sets out a number of welcome proposals.

But the FSB’s policy chairman said it will only deliver if backed by “concrete pro-business measures in the forthcoming Scottish Government Budget.”

Mr McRae said: “FSB has repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to create a business support system that provides a seamless, co-ordinated and joined-up service. Therefore, the delivery of a new bespoke website for enterprise advice, support and information should be applauded.  

“However, the enterprise support landscape is littered with countless online ‘one-stop shops’. So, to be effective, we need to further de-clutter the landscape by reducing the number of publicly funded, business-facing websites.

“With all eyes on the upcoming Scottish Government Budget, Government and opposition need to build on this launch and agree a package of support to boost the fortunes of local businesses. Top of the list should be protecting the Small Business Bonus Scheme and backing migrant entrepreneurs.”

David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale: ‘we need a stronger emphasis on keeping down the cost of doing business (pic: Terry Murden)

Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, David Lonsdale, shared concerns over what is missing from the plan.

“There is a much in this plan the retail industry can support, especially the measures on skills, innovation, digital and transport infrastructure,” he said.

“What’s missing is a stronger emphasis on keeping down the cost of doing business in order to stimulate commercial investment. In these unsettling times for retailers, the only fixed point in a world of flux seems to be rising costs which are increasingly difficult to absorb without passing on to shoppers.

“A more all-encompassing approach to delivering a competitive business rates regime is required, especially as the rates burden remains onerous and the poundage rate has reached a 20-year high.

“Top priorities must be finally delivering on the Barclay recommendation to restore by April the level playing field with England on the large business supplement, and retaining the Uniform Business Rate.”

His comments came as it was confirmed that an important debate on business rates – the Non-Domestic Rates Bill – will take place on 4 February.

The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) has become the 28th business lobby group concerned about plans to scrap the uniform business rates and transfer control over £2.8 billion rates to local councils.

The Scottish Government remains opposed to the amendment, lodged at Stage 2 in the legislative process by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, which received the support of opposition parties.

Fiona Campbell, chief executive of the ASSC, said: “This cross-sectoral appeal to MSPs highlights the very real concerns from the business community in Scotland regarding this amendment.

“The professional self-catering sector, an important lynchpin of Scotland’s tourism industry, are also extremely concerned about what it will entail. 

“The lack of an economic impact assessment for the proposals – as well as a thorough consultation process for such a significant change to the NDR regime – heightens our concerns.

“At Stage 3, we would therefore urge MSPs to protect small businesses throughout Scotland by voting against this amendment and to retain the Uniform Business Rate.”

See also

Rates threat to student halls



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