Scottish Land & Estates has said targeted rates reliefs for businesses and communities would further encourage economic growth in rural communities.
The organisation has today responded to the Barclay Review of Business Rates, a consultation initiated by the Scottish Government.
In its response, Scottish Land & Estates has said more could be achieved with:-
• A competitive rates regime, comparable with the rest of the United Kingdom
• Regular revaluations at five yearly intervals with no slippage in timescale
• The ability to address material changes in circumstance within the five years period
• Adequate resourcing of Assessors and suitably qualified staff
• Targeted reliefs
• Consistency in application and efficiency in process
Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs, Sarah-Jane Laing from Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The current framework for business rates is broadly accepted and understood by business and as such, there is no need to vastly reinvent the system. However, that does not mean that there is not a real need for operational changes.
“What we would like to see, representing rural businesses across the country, is a more flexible and competitive system that introduces greater transparency into the operation of business rates.
“We believe regular re-evaluations, at least every five years, would create more certainty for businesses and ensure the system is able to respond to market changes.”
Scottish Land & Estates added that there were specific instances where targeted relief should be given to businesses that wanted to invest in projects that served the community.
Mrs Laing continued: “We would welcome the reintroduction of a relief for smaller renewable energy schemes. Many of our members are engaged in, and have invested heavily in, the sector. The Scottish Government has set challenging targets which the industry has responded to. It came as a disappointment when renewable energy relief was removed for all but community renewable energy schemes.
“While the renewable subsidy regime is not within Scottish hands, the rate reliefs are. Smaller renewable energy schemes tend to be delivered by farmers and smaller land based businesses rather than large international developers. Many of them, particularly as the funding support has reduced, are struggling to justify the schemes.
“It is also our firm belief that a relief for public benefit facilities which raise no revenue should also be considered. Often individuals and communities are keen to develop something that is greatly needed in the area but the attached rates bill cannot be sustained.
“One member, for example, has developed toilets and a campsite at a site where wild camping was previously causing a problem. As the site is in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park the design specification was high. This resulted in a high rateable value which was only just below the Small Business Bonus Threshold. However, the member cannot now justify developing the site further as it would not economically be viable due to the rates bill.
“We realise that there will always be anomalies in any complex system of taxation but a common-sense approach to targeted relief could help to overcome any such flaws.”