Firms call for action on business rates parity
Firms in Scotland will pay out £180m more in business rates than their counterparts south of the border over the next three years, according to new research.
They are subject to a Scotland-only surcharge that applies to 11,570 firms occupying medium sized and larger commercial premises and which enters its eighth year of operation next week.
The Scottish Retail Consortium argues that the surcharge makes life tougher for firms in Scotland who are already grappling with a growing cumulative burden of public policy-imposed costs.
It wants the Scottish Government to accelerate a 2021 pledge to restore parity with England by the end of the current parliamentary term in 2026.
Despite recent changes, including a one-year freeze in the headline business rate and more regular revaluations which come into effect next week, businesses say the rates burden remains onerous and the poundage is at a 24-year high.
Meanwhile, the SRC says shops and hospitality businesses in Scotland are missing out on the enhanced temporary rates relief which is being made available to counterparts in Wales and England during 2023-24.
Commenting ahead of the new business rates financial year which begins on 1 April, David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Scottish Ministers have made some headway on business rates including freezing the headline poundage rate for the coming year and introducing more regular commercial property revaluations.
“However, this makes it all the more striking that restoring parity with England on the higher property rate surtax isn’t being sped up.
“Indeed, with over 2,000 medium-sized and larger shops – and 11,000 commercial premises overall – continuing to pay a higher business rate than counterparts or competitors down south, this Scotland-only surcharge increasingly sticks out like a sore thumb.
“The surcharge only serves to make life tougher for retailers by making it more expensive to maintain a shop presence on Scotland’s high streets. As such, we need to see a more ambitious approach and a faster pace towards restoring the level playing field with England on the higher property rate.”