Business News

Business leaders urge Scottish government to freeze rates in Budget

Pressure from 35 organisations

Business leaders have united to send an unequivocal message to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Shona Robison, to freeze their rates in next month’s Scottish Budget. The groups said freezing business rates will help ease the burden for businesses at this difficult time. They made the plea as the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) claimed firms now share the view that Scotland has become a more difficult place to do business than at any point in recent memory.

SCC chief executive Liz Cameron is one of the business leaders who signed the joint plea to Ms Robison as she prepares to announce the Scottish Government’s tax and spending plans for 2024-25 in the Budget on December 19. In a letter to the Deputy First Minister, who is also the Finance Secretary, the groups argued that freezing business rates will help achieve the shared objective of delivering more sustainable economic growth.

High rates and challenging conditions

The letter was also signed by Sandy Begbie, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, and CBI Scotland director Tracy Black. It warns that after three-and-a-half turbulent years of the pandemic and costs crunch, trading conditions for businesses remain challenging. The signatories said: “We therefore ask that Scottish ministers prioritise a freeze in the headline business rate poundage – which is already at a 24-year high – in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crunch, help them keep down prices for customers, and support business investment and competitiveness.”

Business leaders urge Scottish government to freeze rates in Budget

The letter also calls for the Scottish Government to maintain the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which provides relief for smaller firms, and to review the Large Business Supplement, which imposes an additional charge on larger properties. The groups said these measures would “provide certainty and stability for businesses of all sizes and sectors across Scotland”.

Cross-sector support

The letter was also backed by leaders of groups including the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the Scotch Whisky Association, the Federation of Independent Retailers Scotland, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, the Institute of Directors Scotland, the Scottish Property Federation, UKHospitality Scotland, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and Homes for Scotland.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the signatories are a “formidable cross-section of representatives of Scottish industry and commerce”. He added: “We hope Ms Robison will take heed and act in her Budget next month to protect Scottish businesses and jobs.”

Government response

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the challenges faced by businesses as a result of the pandemic and have provided over £3.7 billion in support since March 2020. We have also committed to extending 100% rates relief for the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors for the whole of 2023-24, subject to parliamentary approval of the Budget. We will continue to engage with business organisations and stakeholders ahead of the Budget to ensure we deliver a fair and balanced package of measures that supports our economic recovery and meets the needs of the people of Scotland.”

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