The Scottish Licensed Trade Association is collaborating with other leading business groups and sectoral trade associations in a bid to save the Uniform Business Rate (UBR).
In a joint letter, 27 organisations urge MSPs to vote to retain the Uniform Business Rate. The groups represent a wide cross-section of Scottish industry including manufacturing, retail, property, tourism, hospitality and leisure.
This collective call comes ahead of the final Stage 3 vote on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, expected over the next few weeks. At Stage 2 of the Bill, Holyrood’s Local Government & Communities Committee voted to end the Scotland-wide Uniform Business Rate, and instead hand control over the setting of the business rate poundage and rates reliefs to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
In its own separate submission to the Local Government & Communities Committee, the SLTA said: “The Association is extremely disappointed that this opportunistic proposal by the Green Party, and supported by Conservative and Labour committee members to abolish the UBR, has been passed without any meaningful consultation or due consideration of the economic impact on all businesses with any ratepayers representative bodies.
“We understand that there was to have been a further hearing with COSLA at the beginning of January at which this amendment was to be discussed, but this has now been cancelled. It is, in our opinion, totally unsatisfactory that this will no longer take place and no other opportunity will be availed to business representatives’ bodies to discuss this fundamental change in business rates with the Committee other than the submission of a ‘short’ response.
“While the overall current system has major problems, particularly for the licensed hospitality trade, progress was being made but his latest development has raised grave concerns for all Scottish businesses. 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.
“The SLTA fully supports the retention of the Uniform Business Rate for Scotland as national government has a far more overall understanding of and ability to adapt to economic and trading conditions. A fragmented scheme will only bring inconsistency, inefficiency, instability and damage business viability.”
Note: At Stage 2 of the Bill the Local Government & Communities Committee voted to end the Scotland-wide Uniform Business Rate, and instead hand control over the setting of the business rate poundage and rates reliefs to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. A number of organisations subsequently wrote to the Committee voicing concern.