Organisations representing businesses in Scotland have hit out at moves to hand responsibility for non-domestic rates to local councils.
The Scottish Retail Consortium reacted with dismay after opposition MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee voted through an amendment at stage two of the Non-Domestic Rates Bill to hand control over business rates to Scotland’s 32 town halls.
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:
“Retailers stump up over a fifth of all rates paid, and with shops under enormous pressure action is needed to reduce rates bills which are now at a 20-year high.
“However, 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.
“Councils are already able to reduce business rates in their area, but only three have ever bothered to do so.
“Handing councils control over the poundage rate could lead to firms being treated like cash cows, pushing business rates up even higher and further hitting competitiveness.”
Business support organisation, the Federation of Small Business (FSB) said that small businesses across Scotland could face “big business rates hikes” as a consequence of the decision.
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.
“This Bill is supposed to be looking at new ways to make the rates system more user friendly and introduce more frequent revaluations.
“Instead, we see a policy adopted which could costs businesses far more than the tourism tax or the workplace parking levy.
“Parliamentarians must put this significant bill back on track.”