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Amendment to bill

Ministers make move to halt business rates upheaval

David Melhuish 2

David Melhuish: ‘retention of a UBR will provide certainty’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Business groups have welcomed the latest intervention by the Scottish Government to prevent local councils being handed powers over business rates.

Ministers have tabled an amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill which seeks to retain the uniform business rate and nationally-set rates reliefs. The bill comes before parliament next Tuesday (4 February) .

If successful, it would overturn a proposal by Green MSP Andy Wightman to scrap the UBR and devolve rates to local authorities.

Earlier this month 27 of the country’s business representative groups and trade associations wrote to MSPs urging them to vote to retain the uniform business rate. A 28th organisation added its voice last week.

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government’s amendment, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “The retention of a uniform business rate across Scotland will provide certainty and predictability for businesses seeking to locate or retain their investment in Scotland.

“We welcome this government amendment and ask MSPs across the political spectrum to support it in parliament next week.

“The amendment will also preserve the rates relief. This was a key feature of the independent Barclay review and is designed to grow the business rates tax base, which will ultimately benefit local services and the taxpayer in general.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, added: “This is a significant and welcome intervention from Scottish Ministers.

“If MSPs vote to retain the uniform business rate it would signal they are listening to the growing chorus from across industrial and commercial life in Scotland who have spoken up against handing control over this £2.8 billion tax to each of the 32 different local authorities, with all of the cost and complexity that would bring.

“Scrapping the UBR and fragmenting the rates system would likely increase rates bills, and exacerbate the challenges already being faced by property-intensive sectors like retail.”

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