Scottish businesses are being stung by higher taxes than their English competitors as the economy north of the border lags behind the UK’s, according to major employers.
An alliance of business leaders, which represents about 1 million workers in Scotland, launched a broadside on the SNP’s policy of doubling the business rate supplement for larger businesses.
The surcharge, which kicks in this month and is enshrined in the SNP’s election manifesto, ends the level playing field Scots companies have enjoyed with its Union counterparts and adds £60m a year to their costs.
The five business groups – Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Scottish Engineering, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Property Federation and the Scottish Retail Consortium – boast a membership which employs roughly half of the country’s private sector workforce.
Liz Cameron OBE, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The decision to double the large business supplement puts many Scottish businesses at a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts in England at a time when the Scottish economy is underperforming that of the UK as a whole.
“This additional tax affects a wide range of businesses, including shops, offices, factories and hotels for whom an increase in their fixed costs is the last thing they need at the moment.
“This is another reason why the forthcoming review of business rates in Scotland must be fundamental and comprehensive.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “We’ve yet to hear a convincing explanation as to why firms operating from medium and larger sized premises in Scotland are better placed to be stumping up more in business rates than firms in comparable premises elsewhere in the UK.”
Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the SNP cannot ignore these calls from business leaders.
“Wrecking Scotland’s economy with unjustified tax rises will only chase businesses away, leaving us with less money to pay for schools and hospitals,” he said.
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, said: “The SNP has delivered for businesses across Scotland – our small business bonus hasalready saved firms around £1 billion in total so far, and if re-elected we willextend the scheme to lift 100,000 companies out of business rates altogether.
“We are also committed to reviewing the wider business rates system to make sure it supports economic growth and jobs creation – with an emphasis on ensuring Scotland remains the most competitive place in the UK to do business.”