Ministers accused

SNP rates relief denial blamed for retail job cuts

Shops have closed across the country, causing big job losses (pic: Terry Murden)

The Scottish government’s decision not to pass on rates relief available to businesses south of the border has been blamed for the loss of 29,000 retail jobs.

Official figures, from the Office for National Statistics for the 12 months to September 2023 show an 8% fall in employment across Scotland’s shops.

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser says the figures are the “predictable result” of the SNP denying businesses the 75% rates relief provided by the UK Government.

The shadow Business Secretary warns of a further haemorrhaging of jobs after Finance Secretary Shona Robison emulated predecessor John Swinney by not passing on to businesses the £320 million received as a result of the UK chancellor’s autumn statement.

Mr Fraser said: “It’s a shameful betrayal of retail workers. They have been hung out to dry by the decision of nationalist ministers to put Scottish firms, and Scottish branches of UK and international chains, at a competitive disadvantage.

“The SNP said that they wanted to listen to business, yet they have ignored repeated calls from the retail sector for a level playing field with the rest of the UK.

Murdo Fraser
Murdo Fraser: ‘a shameful betrayal’

“The closures and job losses are a direct result of that. Sadly, we can expect more of the same thanks to Shona Robison repeating the folly of John Swinney in her disastrous tax-and-axe budget.

“It’s clear that the SNP government is still not serious about supporting Scotland’s high streets, even in the face of a shocking eight-per-cent fall in jobs.”

A recent report from the Fraser of Allander Institute into the ‘state of the Scottish labour market’ says retail jobs took a huge hit last year.

It states: “There were 29,000 fewer wholesale and retail jobs in the 12 months to September 2023 than in the 12 months to September 2022 – an 8% fall, and by far the largest contributor to the 44,000 fall in jobs in that period across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said previously: “There have been calls to replicate non-domestic rates retail, hospitality and leisure relief available to businesses in England.

“While Scottish ministers are sympathetic to these calls, doing so would have meant that the Scottish Government could not provide the NHS, schools or emergency services with the funding they require.”

The latest figures released this morning by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) show that total sales rose by 2.8% (2.1% on a like-for-like basis) in the five weeks to 30 March.

After adjusting for inflation, sales were up by 1.5% in a period that included two days of the Easter holiday.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Clearly one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but these positive figures for March are a balm for hard-pressed retailers in Scotland after many months of difficult trading.”

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