Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Budget: Business rates relief ‘scratches surface’ of help needed

Budget business rates relief
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes as she delivers the Scottish Budget.

A three-month extension of business rates relief will merely scratch the surface of the support needed to keep many north east firms afloat and will provide only a “stay of execution”, industry leaders say.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes told MSPs that non-domestic rates relief could be extended further if the UK Government makes a similar move in March, as she announced the Scottish Government’s budget plans on Thursday.

Businesses have called on the Scottish Government to extend relief for a full 12 months but Ms Forbes argued that while ministers would be “very keen” to do that, it would not be “affordable” without consequentials from equivalent spending in England.

The finance secretary confirmed the poundage rate of non-domestic rates will be reduced in Scotland for the first time in the history of devolution, to 49p, an “unprecedented step” she said would save firms more than £120 million.

Budget business rates relief

Ms Forbes said the measures set out in her budget were “about striking the right balance between raising the revenue required to fund our public services and supporting the economic recovery through targeted interventions”.

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said the new measures “will create some limited breathing room for firms” but added it is “painfully clear that three months of additional relief will only scratch the surface of the support needed by these sectors to rebuild post-pandemic”.

Business rates are based on valuations completed in 2015, before the oil and gas downturn, and are no longer representative of trading circumstances in the north east but MSPs voted last month to delay revaluations by at least another year.

We need to do something to ensure that businesses in the north east are not being hit with a double whammy.”

Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald

‘Systemic unfairness’

The region has been dealt a further blow as the out-of-date figures have left many businesses with rateable values that lock them out of accessing support set up to help struggling firms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Borthwhick said that while the poundage reduction is welcome, it does little to address the “systemic unfairness” in rateable values affecting the north east.

“Recent data continues to highlight that the north east of Scotland has faced a disproportionate decline in employment due to the pandemic and so we welcome a continued focus on jobs – particularly green jobs,” Mr Borthwick said.

Russell Borthwick.

“While the chamber welcomes investment in our region through initiatives like the Energy Transition Fund, the Scottish Government must continue to engage pragmatically with our region and the oil and gas sector to ensure that government policy supports a just transition for the north east.

“Although this budget sets out some temporary respite, for many businesses without further action this short reprieve will simply be a stay of execution.”

Mr Borthwick called on the Scottish Government to urgently publish a route map of the process for reopening the economy or else risk “a wave of business failures and a much harder journey to rebuild our economy in the years to come”.

Keith McKenzie closes the door of The Grill in Aberdeen after bars, cafes and restaurants were ordered to close.

He added: “We are rightly in a race to vaccinate the population rapidly to protect public health, but we must be under no illusions that we are also in race to save thousands of businesses across the UK.”

Business leaders in the north east hope to secure a region-specific rates deal and Ms Forbes said on Thursday that she was open to meeting with Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald to discuss the plan in more detail.

Ms Forbes said the decision to extend the transition relief provided to Aberdeen businesses was taken because the revaluation had been further delayed but added that the extended reliefs “will hopefully be very helpful”.

Mark McDonald MSP.

Fears of a ‘double whammy’

Speaking later, Mr McDonald said his office had been inundated with messages from businesses who are “essentially treading water” and are asking how they can access support packages to help them survive.

“I’m encouraged that the cabinet secretary is willing to meet with me to discuss these issues further and hopefully she might look at some regional flexibilities, particularly around the thresholds for business support,” Mr McDonald said.

“Because when you look at numbers of businesses in the north east, in Aberdeen particularly, that qualify for the small business bonus, it is a fraction compared to elsewhere in Scotland.

“We need to do something to ensure that businesses in the north east are not being hit with a double whammy of a rates revaluation delay and thresholds for business support that continue to lock them out of much needed financial help.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from The Courier Scottish politics team

More from The Courier