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Verdict on appeal

Judge gives go-ahead to Judicial Review of grants policy

Jackie Baillie: ‘time for the government to reconsider’ (pic: Terry Murden)

A judge has given the go-ahead to the businesses seeking a judicial review of the Scottish government’s business grants policy.

Lord Fairley found the bid “competent” and said it was “suitable for urgent consideration” in the Court of Session.

It is understood that the Scottish Government is being served with papers this afternoon.

The action was filed on Tuesday amid increasing concerns that failure to match Westminster’s economic support will force a string of the country’s smaller firms out of existence.

The petition was submitted digitally, with a motion seeking a first order for service and a shortened period for answers so that an early Permission Hearing can be fixed. 

The group of businesses spanning various sectors across retail, hospitality and leisure, are arguing the fairness of the Scottish Government’s decision to deny them grant support equal to that being offered south of the border.

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The Scottish Government initially offered a 100% grant on business rates per business, while firms in England and Wales were able to claim the full amount for each property.

Scottish businesses and opposition politicians claimed that this put firms north of the border at a competitive disadvantage and that it reneged on a pledge to match the Westminster scheme.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes relented, but only by giving a 100% grant on the first property. Firms were only eligible for a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.

Commenting on the court decision, Scottish Labour deputy leader and finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “It’s been clear from the start that some Scottish businesses would be put at a disadvantage by the SNP government’s decision to offer less support than is available south of the border.

“Rather than fighting this in the courts, it’s time for the government to reconsider.”

UPDATE 1 May: In today’s briefing to the media First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Daily Business whether the government would consider Ms Baillie’s request.

The FM said she would not comment on a legal matter and reiterated the wider support that the Scottish government is giving to Scottish businesses.

She said politicians should ask which businesses should lose out if the policy was changed.

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