Surtax row

Usdaw joins call for tax on grocers to be dropped

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale: welcomes USDAW’s intervention (pic: Terry Murden)

A trade union is backing calls for Holyrood ministers to shelve plans for an additional business rates tax on grocers selling alcohol.

The Scottish government is looking to re-introduce a public health supplement to help tackle the country’s alcohol problem and help plug a gap in government finances. The Scottish Greens are keen to see it imposed.

Usdaw, the union of shop, distributive and allied workers, and one of Scotland’s biggest unions, is supporting the Scottish Retail Consortium’s call for the plan to be dropped.

Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw Scotland’s Regional Secretary, said: “The Scottish Government should be making it as easy as possible for retailers to invest and create good jobs in Scotland, not making it more difficult with the threat of a costly new business rate surtax.

“This arbitrary move could exacerbate the challenges facing retail. It could well have significant unintended consequences particularly if it impacted on the amount available to retailers’ to invest in training budgets or colleague bonuses.”

David Lonsdale, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), accused ministers of not coming clean on the reason for introducing the additional tax.

In a post-Budget submission, the SRC said: “If the plan is to regurgitate the approach from 2012-15 then the title ‘Public Health Supplement’ is a misnomer as the receipts from the previous incarnation of this surcharge went into the Scottish Government’s general pot and wasn’t ring-fenced or hypothecated for public health.

“Ministers should be candid about this and end any pretence that this has anything to do with public health when, as the Budget document clearly states, it is about plugging a shortfall in the devolved finances.”

Today, Mr Lonsdale said: “Usdaw’s intervention shows that a growing range of voices from across Scotland’s retail industry are expressing serious doubts about the wisdom of introducing a new tax on food retailers.

“A new surtax would be a retrograde step and firmly at odds with the Government’s New Deal for Business.

“Grocers already face a swathe of upcoming new regulations and have also been lumbered with huge costs as a result of the deposit return scheme farrago.

“Now they face an additional tax which even the Scottish Government admits is little more than a cash grab. We hope Scottish Ministers take heed and shelve the surtax.”

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