Following concerted efforts by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) and other industry bodies to have the commercial rating system in Scotland completely overhauled to bring a more consistent and fairer distribution of the rates burden, the organisation is in complete disbelief at the totally ill-conceived ideology and reckless actions of the Conservative, Labour and Green parties to drag business back 25 years by scrapping the current uniform business rate (UBR) system.
While the current system has major problems, particularly for the licensed hospitality trade, progress was being made, says the SLTA. However, it suggests that this latest development will raise grave concerns for all Scottish businesses.
The SLTA points out that already a large proportion of Scottish businesses are disadvantaged compared with other areas of the UK and this will only add to the problem and bring more uncertainty, increased costs for businesses and a lack of further investment.
SLTA is deeply concerned that if this change is brought in and the rating system is overseen by 32 unitary local authority councils, the outcome across the country will be disastrous for all businesses, and the problems of inconsistencies of approach and vagaries already experienced by the licensed trade will be exacerbated.
The trade association, along with UK Hospitality, the Scottish Beer & Pub Association and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, recently met with Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, to discuss alternatives for the current system. Following this recent development, the SLTA will be meeting with Ms Forbes again, sooner than planned.
SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “The Parliament’s Local Government Committee has taken the unusual step of gathering further information from industry on the matter of ending the uniform business rate and instead handing control over the setting of the poundage rate, reliefs and any local supplements/levies to local authorities.
“The Committee has received a further written submission on this matter from the SLTA.”
Meanwhile, the SLTA and UK Hospitality representatives had a useful and informative meeting with Andy Wightman MSP who is driving these proposed changes and we now understand that the proposal to allow the setting of supplementary rates or levies will be withdrawn and any rates reliefs will continue to be set by national Government – although further reassurances on these issues are still to be confirmed.
In addition, a round table event has been convened by the Scottish Retail Consortium to discuss the MSP vote to end the Uniform Business Rate and also to discuss the Non-Domestic Rates Bill in general.
The purpose of the meeting is to share intelligence and explore possible collaboration on lobbying/campaigning in the run-up to Stage 3 of the Bill.
Organisations invited include: SLTA; CBI Scotland; FSB Scotland; SCDI; Scottish Chambers of Commerce; Scottish Engineering; Scottish Grocers’ Federation; Scottish Land & Estates; Scottish Property Federation; Scottish Retail Consortium; Scottish Tourism Alliance; Scotch Whisky Association; Scottish Wholesale Association; and UK Hospitality.