Letter to minister
13 groups urge Forbes to extend help for retail
Empty shops are at a six-year high (pic: Terry Murden)
A group of 13 business and trade union leaders are urging the Scottish Finance Secretary to introduce a business rates discount next year for all retail premises.
They have written to Kate Forbes ahead of her 9 December budget stressing that the retail industry in Scotland can ill-afford a return to 100% business rates from April.
The letter says the sector – which provides 230,000 jobs and accounts for more than a fifth of business rates – requires further support in light of lower footfall and a six-year high for empty shops.
The letter recognises the support so far received during the pandemic, but it states that “for all the progress in pushing back against Covid, it is clear the retail industry is still struggling in its shadow.”
It adds: “As Holyrood’s Finance & Public Administration Committee noted this month, many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.
“As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share.
“However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high prior to the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops.”
The organisations says they have “a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could better support the economic recovery in the short and longer term.
“However, we collectively believe one measure that requires to be taken in your Budget is a further discount to business rates in 2022-23 – one that is applicable to all retail premises and reduces the burden for all stores – to reflect the market reality and provide a bridge to the next revaluation in 2023.”
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
Ferhan Ashiq, Scottish District President, Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN)
James Barnes, Chairman, The Horticultural Trades Association
Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers Federation
Tracy Gilbert, Regional Secretary – Scotland, Usdaw
Philip Goodman, Chair, Shopping Centre Management Group, Revo Scotland
Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
Howard Saycell, Chief Executive, Retra
Anthony Short, Executive Director, Music Industries Association
Roddy Smith, Chief Executive, Essential Edinburgh
Jim Winship, Director, The British Sandwich & Food to Go Association