Sunday, January 19, 2020
The skye times mobile

Kate Forbes MSP has condemned an opposition attempt to end crucial rates reliefs schemes that benefit 11,050 of businesses in the Highlands.

Last week Labour and Tory MSPs on Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee voted for a Green amendment to the Non-Domestic Rates Bill that would remove the ability of Scottish Ministers to set the business rates poundage.

Amendment 9, lodged by Andy Wightman MSP, sets out to devolve powers to set business rates to councils. The effect is that rates would no longer be set nationally and business rates reliefs – including the Small Business Bonus and rates relief for nurseries – would automatically end.

Highland businesses could lose almost £20 million of relief under the plan.
The Federation of Small Businesses, CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium have all raised concerns over the impact of the proposed changes, warning it will create added costs and deter investment.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: "Small businesses across the Highlands need more support, not less. We know that businesses in the Highlands already face higher costs due to the delivery charges, transport and fuel costs.

"The Scottish Government offers the most generous package of business rates reliefs anywhere in the UK, worth nearly £750 million to Scottish business. Astonishingly Tory and Labour MSPs have voted to withdraw nearly £300 million of relief in a move that would devastate Scottish business.

"More than 100,000 businesses across Scotland – and almost 11,000 in the Highlands (10,960) – benefit from the Scottish Government's Small Business Bonus. That would disappear, alongside other reliefs affecting including support for nurseries, under the proposals being forced through by opposition parties.

"A majority of Scottish businesses benefit from the lowest poundage anywhere in the UK and incentives that only exist in Scotland. All that is under threat as ministers would not be able to set a consistent rate and provide national reliefs.

"These plans would deliver a body blow to Highland businesses and would put at risk the delivery of local services. The Tories and Labour must back track on this disastrous move at the final stage of the bill.
Stuart Mackinnon, FSB's external affairs manager for Scotland, said: "Across Scotland, small businesses will be alarmed to hear that nationwide rate relief for smaller operators is under threat."
Tracy Black, Director of CBI Scotland, said: "Businesses have been clear that we wanted simplification - instead we could face more complexity and fragmentation. And complexity and fragmentation = bigger administrative burden and increased business costs."
David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, commented: "Allowing each of Scotland's 32 councils to set the poundage rate in their area is an alarming and retrograde step, and flies in the face of the Bill's aims and the thrust of the rates reform agenda."

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