A fairer system of calculating business rates needs to implemented before Fife’s bar and restaurant industry is crippled, a local MSP has been told.
Willie Rennie, representative for North East Fife, said he intends to meet Scotland’s finance secretary after hearing the concerns of members of the Fife Licensed Trade Association.
With industry figures speaking of the disparity their businesses face in comparison to the off-licence trade and supermarkets, Mr Rennie said that it was crucial the Scottish Government reviewed the situation.
He said: “The pub trade is going through a huge amount of change and has done over the last few decades, but that has accelerated in the last few years.
“The issue of business rates reflect a time from yesteryear rather than today (and) it’s complicated coming up with a resolution.
“It’s not easy as within the trade there are a variety of businesses with different needs.
“I’ll be contacting Derek Mackay and seeing if I can encourage him to look again at how we can assist the pub trade — not for sentimentality, but because it’s good for health and good for tourism.”
Last year’s Barclay Review into business rates failed to recommend any significant changes in rates for licensed premises. Meanwhile, say association members, supermarkets continue to enjoy an unfair advantage under the current system, allowing them to undercut pubs and restaurants by being judged on different criteria.
While the Scottish Government has looked to minimum pricing as a means of tackling the nation’s unhealthy relationship with the bottle, the trade has always argued that encouraging people to drink in the controlled environment of pubs and restaurants could be equally effective.
Billy McLean, president of the Fife Licensed Trade Association, said a fairer system of taxation needed to be developed to preserve Scotland’s pubs, with many social and sports clubs continuing to sell alcohol while enjoying rates relief.
“Rates are something that are levied on premises instead of profits” he said.
“We as a body think that if you’re in business you should be making some sort of contribution to the services the council provide, because we all use them.
“As rates are a tax like any other, its crucial it’s levied on a basis of everybody having to pay.
“We feel that the present regime is not fit for purpose and sets us aside from other trades.”