COMMERCE UNITES TO SAVE THE UNIFORM BUSINESS RATE
Twenty-seven of the country’s leading business representative groups and sectoral trade associations have written a joint letter to MSPs, urging them to vote to retain the Uniform Business Rate.
The 27 organisations represent a wide cross section of Scottish industry including manufacturing, retail, property, tourism, hospitality and leisure.
The collective call comes ahead of the final Stage 3 vote on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, expected over the next few weeks. The text of the letter is as follows:
Retain the Uniform Business Rate
We are writing to you ahead of Stage 3 of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill to voice our alarm and shared concern over recently adopted amendments which seek to scrap the Uniform Business Rate and instead hand control over this £2.8 billion tax to each of the 32 local authorities to set their own poundage rate, rates reliefs, and any supplements or surcharges.
Our ambition is for a competitive rates system and one that better reflects economic and trading conditions. It is why we have supported the thrust of the Bill.
However, we are profoundly concerned with the abolition of the Uniform Business Rate and Scotland-wide rates reliefs, and the consistency and predictability they bring.
We fear this could lead to higher business rates bills, at a time when the poundage rate is already at a 20-year high and with a further increase pencilled in for this Spring, and when businesses want to invest and grow the Scottish economy.
We therefore urge you and fellow MSPs to overturn these amendments, which simply introduce fresh complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system, and which are at odds with the rates reform agenda of ensuring competitiveness and minimising complexity.
We want Scotland to be a great place to do business. Retaining the Uniform Business Rate would be a positive step in the right direction.
James Lowman, Chief Executive, Association of Convenience Stores (ACS)
Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland
Andrew Goodacre, Chief Executive, The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA)
Tracy Black, Director, CBI Scotland
Grahame Barn, Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland (CECA)
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
Andrew McRae, Scotland Policy Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
David Thomson, Chief Executive, Food and Drink Federation Scotland
Ian Cass, Managing Director, Forum of Private Business
James Barnes, Chairman, The Horticultural Trades Association
Hilary Hall, Chief Executive, National Hair & Beauty Federation
Edward Cooke, Chief Executive, Revo
Sara Thiam, Chief Executive, SCDI
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive, Scottish Beer & Pub Association
Karen Betts, Chief Executive, Scotch Whisky Association
Alasdair Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Bakers
Brian Rogan, Chair, Business Rates Advisory Group, Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Paul Sheerin, Chief Executive, Scottish Engineering
Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF)
Colin Wilkinson, Managing Director, Scottish Licensed Trade Association
David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Alliance
Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesale Association
Miles Beale, Chief Executive, The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)
Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, UK Cinema Association
Willie Macleod, Executive Director, UKHospitality
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.