Business Groups in Scotland Call for Retention of Uniform Business Rate

ACS has joined forces with Scotland’s leading business representative groups and sectoral trade associations in a joint letter to MSPs, urging them to vote to retain the Uniform Business Rate.

The 26 organisations represent a wide cross section of Scottish industry including manufacturing, retail, property, tourism, hospitality and leisure.

Andy Wightman MSP tabled an amendment to the Non Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill in December which would allow local authorities to set the poundage rate and impose additional levies and supplements on retailers. The amendment could effectively abolish nationally-set reliefs including the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

The collective call comes ahead of the final Stage 3 vote on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, expected over the next few weeks. ACS’ separate written submission to the Bill has outlined concerns about the amendment, highlighting how it could increase bills for retailers and result in unnecessary complexity in the rates system, resulting in business investment and access to local services in convenience stores being undermined.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Giving local authorities the power to set rates will increase complexity in the business rates system and result in widespread uncertainty for local shops about their costs.

“We are concerned that the amendment would inhibit retailers’ ability to invest in their stores and provide their customers with essential products and services. The Opposition Parties backing this amendment need to recognise the detrimental impact this would have on convenience stores throughout Scotland.”

Figures from ACS’ Voice of Local Shops survey show that 84% of independent convenience stores in Scotland currently benefit from the nationally administered Small Business Bonus Scheme. This relief is integral for more than half of retailers to continue trading (53%), maintain employment levels (13%) and continue investing in their business (11%).

The text of the letter is below.

Dear MSP,

We are writing to you ahead of Stage 3 of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill to voice our alarm and shared concern over recently adopted amendments which seek to scrap the Uniform Business Rate and instead hand control over this £2.8 billion tax to each of the 32 local authorities to set their own poundage rate, rates reliefs, and any supplements or surcharges.

Our ambition is for a competitive rates system and one that better reflects economic and trading conditions. It is why we have supported the thrust of the Bill.

However, we are profoundly concerned with the abolition of the Uniform Business Rate and Scotland-wide rates reliefs, and the consistency and predictability they bring.

We fear this could lead to higher business rates bills, at a time when the poundage rate is already at a 20-year high and with a further increase pencilled in for this Spring, and when businesses want to invest and grow the Scottish economy.

We therefore urge you and fellow MSPs to overturn these amendments, which simply introduce fresh complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system, and which are at odds with the rates reform agenda of ensuring competitiveness and minimising complexity.

We want Scotland to be a great place to do business. Retaining the Uniform Business Rate would be a positive step in the right direction.

Your sincerely,

  • James Lowman, Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores (ACS)
  • Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland
  • Andrew Goodacre, Chief Executive, The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA)
  • Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland
  • Grahame Barn, Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland (CECA)
  • Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
  • Andrew McRae, Scotland Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
  • David Thomson, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation Scotland
  • Ian Cass, Managing Director, Forum of Private Business
  • James Barnes, Chairman, The Horticultural Trades Association
  • Hilary Hall, Chief Executive, National Hair & Beauty Federation
  • Edward Cooke, Chief Executive, Revo
  • Sara Thiam, Chief Executive, SCDI
  • Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive, Scottish Beer & Pub Association
  • Karen Betts, Chief Executive, Scotch Whisky Association
  • Alasdair Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Bakers
  • Name tbc, title tbc, Scottish Chambers of Commerce
  • Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering
  • Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF)
  • Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director, Scottish Licensed Trade Association
  • David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
  • David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
  • Marc Crothall, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance
  • Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association
  • Miles Beale, Chief Executive, The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)
  • Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association
  • Willie Macleod, Executive Director, UKHospitality
This entry was posted by Chloe on Wed, 15/01/2020 - 10:06