OPPOSITION MSPs URGED TO OVERTURN THREAT TO BUSINESS RATES RELIEF SCHEMES

Michael Matheson has urged opposition MSPs to overturn a proposed amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill – after 27 business organisations signed a letter to raise their concerns over the proposal.

Amendment 9 to the Bill would mean that rates would no longer be set nationally and business rates relief schemes, including the Small Business Bonus and rates relief for nurseries, would automatically end.

If the Small Business Bonus scheme were to be abolished, some smaller businesses in Falkirk district could face a rate hike of more than £7000.

Conservative, Labour and Green MSPs on Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee, including Central Scotland list Tory MSP Graham Simpson, backed the amendment during stage 2 of the Bill. The SNP was the only party to oppose it.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Scottish Retail Consortium are among the organisations that have signed the joint letter to MSPs in a bid to save the Uniform Business Rate. It comes ahead of the final stage 3 vote on the Bill.

In the letter, the organisations voice their alarm over the opposition parties’ plan to allow each local authority to set its own poundage rate and rates reliefs, which they say would “introduce fresh complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system”.

Falkirk West MSP Mr Matheson said: “This move to scrap more than £308million of relief is strongly opposed by the SNP, because it could impact more than 100,000 businesses across Scotland and cost smaller businesses £7000.

“Abolishing the Uniform Business Rate would be a blow to businesses across Falkirk district and could risk the delivery of vital local services, the work of charities and third-sector organisations.

 “Opposition parties must heed this warning by business organisations – and show their support for our small businesses – and backtrack on this disastrous move.”