LEVEL THE FIELD ON BUSINESS RATES, MACKAY URGED

Up go business rates – and down go the numbers of shops in Scotland: analysis from the Scottish Retail Consortium shows a stark correlation between falling numbers of shops in Scotland and the increase in non-domestic rates over the last seven years.

Hopefully the Infographic gives a stark visualisation of these two trends.

The infographic is targeted for the desk of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay as he puts the finishing touches to his Holyrood Budget due on Thursday. Back in September the SRC and 12 other business groups wrote to the Finance Secretary urging him in his Budget to restore the level playing field with England on the large business rates supplement.

Doubling the supplement costs firms operating in Scotland an extra £62.4 million in tax each year. Some 29,000 commercial premises in total – of which 7,000 are retail premises – in Scotland are affected by the doubling of the rates supplement.

Says SRC Scotland Director David Lonsdale, “The last seven years have seen the burden of business rates ratcheted up with little consideration for the consequences for shops and high streets or trading conditions.

“Almost 1,700 shops have closed in Scotland over that time, whilst the Scottish Government has increased i’s tax take from business rates by £687 million.

“This situation isn’t sustainable and the strategy of plucking the goose with the minimum of hissing isn’t working. The Finance Secretary needs to take immediate action in this week’s Budget to help struggling shops facing challenging economic and trading conditions – starting with reversing this years’ deeply regrettable doubling of the Large Business Rates Supplement.

“However, that should just be an interim step. Once the Barclay Review of Business Rates is complete, the devolved administration needs to implement a modern, simpler, more flexible, and above all more competitive business rates system. Otherwise the regrettable trends highlighted here will only be exacerbated.”

The shop number figures come from the Scottish Annual Business Statistics published in late August and the Business Rates statistics from the most recent Scottish Parliament Research Centre Briefing on Local Authority Finance.

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