Government must deliver for the trade

By Gillian McKenzie

SUPERFAST broadband for all homes and businesses by the end of 2021; investment in infrastructure; support for rural businesses and communities; a new £3.5 million ‘ferries resilience fund’; a campaign to promote tourism as a career – on paper, there’s a lot to like in the first minister’s programme for government.

The document, published last week, also includes a pledge to introduce a Non-domestic Rates Bill, which it says will “deliver the ambition set out in the Barclay Review to enhance and reform the business rates system in Scotland to better-support business growth and long-term investment”.

The legislation will seek to implement measures put forward by the Barclay group, including a move to a three-year revaluation cycle (rather than every five years); it will, the government says, “deliver measures to increase fairness”.

Of course, as with all these things, the devil is in the detail.

And the trade will be watching closely to see whether the Bill goes beyond Barclay and tackles the root cause, by reforming the way in which rateable values of licensed trade businesses are calculated.

The consultation which will “inform” the legislation closes on September 17 and it’s crucial the trade’s voice is heard on an issue which continues to cripple businesses.

In a programme for government which also trumpets the importance of tourism – citing that the sector supports some 207,000 jobs (8% of Scottish employment) – surely the government should seek to support that sector and deliver on these latest pledges.