Business rate parity between Scotland and England for larger businesses – latest

The SNP Government in Scotland is being accused of rowing back on a manifesto pledge to restore parity with England and Wales on business rates for medium and large sized firms.

Business leaders have levelled the accusation at the ruling administration after Finance Minister Tom Arthur told MSPs that changes would only be made when it was affordable and over the course of this Parliament.

The Higher Property Business Rate across Scotland costs firms around £60m a year.

David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, has been quoted in the Scottish Daily Express saying: “This apparent retraction of the timetabled commitment to restore the level playing field with England on the Higher Property Rate surtax is incredibly frustrating and troubling, more so given lingering concerns about Scotland’s relative economic underperformance compared to the UK as a whole and the pressing need to lift private sector investment.

“With Scottish Ministers having already ignored the recommendation of their own Barclay Review to end this Scotland-only surcharge by 2020, it’s dispiriting they won’t even commit to remove this before this Parliament ends despite it being a manifesto commitment.”

The original pledge was made following the Barclay Review into Business Rates back in 2016, led by the former RBS chief Ken Barclay. The report called for parity with England to be restored by April 2020.

Mr Lonsdale added that he couldn’t see any “credible justification” why thousands of Scottish businesses had to pay out more in business rates than their English or Welsh counterparts.

He added: “The surcharge only serves to make life tougher for those retailers affected by making it more expensive to maintain a shop presence on Scotland’s high streets. Ministers need to rethink their stance and urgently pursue a much more ambitious approach towards restoring the level playing field with England on the higher property rate.”