REPRESENTATIVES from three trade groups met with Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay today (December 4) to highlight their “profound concerns” with plans to give local authorities more power over business rates.
The meeting with Mackay came less than a week after an amendment was added to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill by the Local Government and Communities Committee, which would give councils the ability to set rates locally, instead of having them set nationally by Scottish ministers. The meeting was attended by Willie Macleod of UK Hospitality, Stuart Mackinnon of FSB Scotland and David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consortium.
In a joint statement the groups said: “The meeting with the finance secretary was a useful opportunity to highlight our profound concerns after last week’s vote in parliament to scrap the uniform business rate.
“Taking business rates out of the hands of ministers and handing control over this £2.8 billion tax to councils places a big question mark over existing Scotland-wide rates reliefs, such as the Small Business Bonus scheme. Firms fear this move could lead to higher business rates bills for both large and small organisations, at a time when the poundage rate is at a 20-year high. It remains unclear too what this change would mean for the finances of rural and less well-off local authorities and therefore ultimately for rates bills in these areas.
“The lack of any impact assessment to accompany this fundamental change in rates policy and what it will mean for ratepayers, for existing reliefs, and for councils themselves, is troubling. MSPs must revisit this amendment to the law at the earliest opportunity.”