The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), representing the interests of licensed establishments across Scotland, is one of thirty-five leading business representative groups and industry bodies in a united call to the Scottish Government’s Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary for a crucial freeze on business rates in the upcoming financial year.
The collaborative initiative, comprising a diverse array of industries, such as retail, wholesale, manufacturing, tourism, leisure, and commercial property, underscores the critical need for a business rates freeze in the face of current economic challenges.
Scotland’s business rates currently stand at a 24-year high, a significant 20% higher than they were at the beginning of the last decade. If left unchecked and increased in line with current Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation, this could lead to an additional £205 million burden on businesses’ rate bills starting in the coming spring. This would contradict the Scottish Government’s stated aim of using business rates to “boost business” at a time when companies are already grappling with cost pressures.
In a joint letter addressed to Shona Robison MSP, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary, the coalition of business representatives and trade bodies expressed their concerns and made a plea:
Dear Deputy First Minister,
We are writing jointly ahead of the Scottish Budget to ask that you do not increase the poundage rate in the coming financial year.
We fully recognise that the Scottish Government, like business, is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time. The work to improve the administration of the rates system through the New Deal for Business is encouraging, as is the headway made in recent years on broader aspects of reform including more frequent revaluations, the retention of the uniform business rate, and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England which should benefit 11,650 commercial premises here in Scotland.
Yet, after three and a half turbulent years of the pandemic and costs crunch the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business remains elevated, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. We therefore ask that Scottish Ministers prioritise a freeze in the headline business rate poundage – which is already at a 24-year high – in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crunch, help them keep down prices for customers, and support business investment and competitiveness.
Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could be improved. However, we collectively believe this practical measure to freeze the business rate requires to be taken in your upcoming Scottish Budget, which would be a positive step applicable to all commercial premises, help ease the burden at this difficult time, and support our shared objective of delivering more sustainable economic growth.
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
Alan Anthony, Scottish Chair, Revo
Fran Barnes, Chief Executive, The Horticultural Trades Association
Miles Beale, Chief Executive, The Wine & Spirit Trade Association
Sandy Begbie CBE FRSE, Chief Executive, Scottish Financial Enterprise
Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland
Clare Bottle, Chief Executive, UK Warehousing Association (UKWA)
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers’ Federation
Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association
Marc Crothall MBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance
Huw Edwards, Chief Executive, ukactive
Andrew Goodacre, Chief Executive, British Independent Retailers Association
Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates
Mark Kent, Chief Executive, Scotch Whisky Association
Hussan Lal, President, Federation of Independent Retailers Scotland
John McLellan, Director, News Brands Scotland
Andrew McRae, Policy Chair, FSB Scotland
Catherine McWilliam, Nations Director – Scotland, IoD Scotland
David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
Gordon Nelson, Scotland Director, Federation of Master Builders
Garry Richmond, Director, Print Scotland
Howard Saycell, Chief Executive, Retra
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive, Salmon Scotland
Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering
Anthony Short, Executive Director, Music Industries Association
Marion Sinclair, Chief Executive, Publishing Scotland
Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association
David Thomson, Chief Executive, Food & Drink Federation Scotland
Leon Thompson, Executive Director, UKHospitality Scotland
Paul Togneri, Senior Advisor, Scottish Beer & Pub Association
Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association
Jane Wood, Chief Executive, Homes for Scotland
The SLTA, along with the other thirty-four organisations, firmly believes that a business rates freeze is a vital step to alleviate the current economic pressures on businesses, sustain business investments, and promote long-term economic growth. By uniting their voices in this collective call, they hope to bring attention to the urgent need for action by the Scottish Government to support businesses across the nation.