Ross calls for 12 month extension to rates relief
Shops are still facing the prospect of closure
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has today called for an extra year’s extension to the 100% rates relief for hospitality, leisure and retail businesses.
He said the move would benefit businesses in Scotland by approximately £900 million and could be financed through the £1 billion which the Tories have identified in a Fraser of Allander Institute report that is yet to be allocated by ministers.
One business leader said the proposed extension of business rates relief would be “incredibly helpful”.
In a speech to business leaders, Mr Ross also set out the need for a rapid review to increase business grant limits immediately and a proposal to allow businesses in levels 2 and 3 to voluntarily close and access full grant packages.
Mr Ross said that his proposals for the economy outlined at the Scottish Conservative conference contrast with, Nicola Sturgeon mentioning independence twice as often as business during her address to the SNP conference.
Mr Ross said today: “This week, they found half a billion pounds for SNP conference announcements but not a penny more for businesses facing closure right now.
“Far too many businesses are still falling through the cracks and not getting the support they need. If the SNP don’t act soon, thousands of jobs will vanish over Christmas.
“The news of a vaccine provides light at the end of the tunnel for all of us – but it won’t give immediate relief to the pubs of Glasgow and hotels of Aberdeenshire that are fighting for their survival right now.
“That’s why we need a blueprint for short-term survival and a long-term strategy to uplift business support across the whole country.
“The SNP have the funding to give businesses this lifeline. They must increase business grants now and extend 100% rates relief next year to give these businesses a fair shot at staying solvent.”
The full list of new action that Douglas Ross called on the SNP Government to take includes:
- Carrying out a rapid review of business grant limits.
- Allowing businesses in restrictions to voluntarily close and access the full closure grant.
- Removing parking charges in town centres.
- Extending the business rates exemptions and poundage freeze into next year.
- Working with the UK Government on business rates reform.
- Introducing a break on new non-Covid related business regulation.
Douglas Ross also reiterated his calls for the SNP Government to establish a ‘Coronavirus Business Advisory Council’ and introduce a one week adaptation period between the announcement and introduction of new restrictions.
Retail chief welcomes proposals
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed the package of “practical measures” that could be brought in immediately.
He said: “Mr Ross’s speech contained a number of helpful policy commitments aimed at restoring economic confidence, stimulating consumer demand, and keeping down the cost of doing business.
“Too often during the past nine months businesses have been left frustrated over the insufficient notice and time given to implement changes in Covid regulation and guidance, posing practical challenges for retailers and their suppliers. The proposed one week adaptation period would be a sensible step where practical.
“The proposal to continue with rates relief for retailers into 2021-22 would be incredibly helpful. Shops face an abrupt ‘reverse cliff edge’ next April, with the 100% re-instatement of business rates.
“Revenues and costs continue to be out of kilter and returning to a business rate poundage at a 21-year high will be unsustainable for many stores. With unprecedented pressure on firms clarity on next year’s costs is urgently needed to allow retailers to plan ahead.
“Similarly welcome are the suggestions that parking charges in town centres be temporarily removed, and that firms are given a break from any new non-Covid related red tape, both measures SRC advocated in our recent Scottish Budget submission.
“These are practical measures which could come in right now with little or no cost to the public purse that could help businesses who are teetering to stay afloat in these very difficult times.”