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UK Budget: Scottish Government urged to take action after huge rates giveaway for English businesses

Graeme Gersok of the Townhouse Hotel in Arbroath.
Graeme Gersok of the Townhouse Hotel in Arbroath.

Scottish business groups have called for a “swift” response by the Scottish Government after a huge business rates giveaway in England.

Tens of thousands of England’s retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today.

Shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday.

An Arbroath hotel operator said a similar move in Scotland would see him save more than £20,000 a year.

Graeme Gersok, the owner of the Townhouse Hotel on Arbroath High Street, said he was “fuming” that a similar business south of the border would have no rates to pay.

“My rateable value is £50,600 – so if the same measure was applied to my business it would save me more than £20,000 a year which is a phenomenal amount of money,” he said.

David Lonsdale, Scottish Retail Consortium director, said the Westminster budget showed Scottish Ministers could “go further” on business rates.

He said: “We hope to see a swift announcement from the Scottish Government on how they will allocate a portion of the very significant Barnett Consequential revenues to support businesses facing a very difficult few months.”

Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scotland policy chair, praised several measures to support SMEs in the budget including the Government paying the first 14 days of statutory sick pay, new funding schemes and a more flexible approach from HMRC.

But he said the FSB would be seeking “early talks” with the Scottish Government about what additional support it can introduce.

Adding to the call for more support, Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We urgently need the Scottish Government to invest any extra funds into business support and boosting the economy, which faces huge challenges in the coming weeks and months.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Coronavirus presents a significant risk to global and domestic economic activity.

“We are monitoring the impacts on the Scottish economy very closely and will do all we can to support businesses, build economic resilience and stimulate growth, jobs and investment.

“We require urgent clarification on what funding Scotland will receive from the announcements on business rates made by the UK Government.”

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