Rates in Holyrood spotlight this year

Scottish Government agenda includes a new Bill to reform the system

The Scottish Government will introduce a non-domestic rates Bill soon

REFORM of business rates, the foundation of a Scottish investment bank and complete broadband coverage across Scotland are among the plans included in the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the next year.

Released as MSPs returned from their summer recess, the Programme for Government details the SNP government’s priorities for the 2018-2019 parliamentary year.

Foremost among the business-related items is the introduction of a Bill to reform the non-domestic rates system in order “to better support business growth and long-term investment”.

Measures will include moving from a five to a three-year revaluation cycle, improving the administration of the rates system in order to provide more information and “reforming reliefs and tackling known avoidance measures”.

The rates commitment was welcomed by trade group UK Hospitality.

“Three-year valuations will ensure that the system is more responsive, and it is to be hoped that additional information will provide transparency and a streamlining that businesses need,” said Willie Macleod, the group’s executive director in Scotland.

Elsewhere in the programme the government committed to establishing a Scottish National Investment Bank to invest in businesses and communities.

The bank, to be up and running by 2020, will invest £2 billion within its first ten years. Former Tesco Bank chief executive, Benny Higgins, will act as strategic advisor on the development of the organisation.

Holyrood has also pledged to award contracts for the next phase of its Reaching 100 broadband programme.

The government claims to have already achieved 95% broadband coverage across Scotland, and is on target for all homes and businesses to be able to access at least 30mbps broadband speed by 2021.

Other commitments included a £3.5 million Ferries Resilience Fund to upgrade equipment on ferries.