SPF joins industry bodies to call for business rates discount for retailers
Thirteen leading business representative groups and industry bodies have jointly written to the Scottish Finance Secretary asking her to introduce a business rates discount for all retail premises for the coming financial year.
The retail industry in Scotland employs 230,000 people and traditionally accounts for over a fifth of business rates. The thirteen organisations represent retailers, trade unions and others with a stake in the vitality of Scottish high streets and retail destinations.
The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Scottish Government’s Budget on 9 December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs for the 2022-23 financial year.
The joint letter was submitted to Kate Forbes MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance & the Economy, earlier this week. The text of the letter was:
Dear Cabinet Secretary,
We are writing jointly ahead of the Scottish Budget to ask that you introduce a further business rates discount for the coming financial year which reduces the burden for all retail premises.
We fully recognise the support your government has provided to the industry during the pandemic, including the business rates waiver. It came against a backdrop in which tangible headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform – more regular revaluations, the retention of the uniform business rate, and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England – along with a consistent commitment to keep the headline poundage below the rest of the UK.
Yet for all the progress in pushing back against Covid, its clear the retail industry is still struggling in its shadow. We are almost two-thirds of the way through the current financial year and store sales and shopper footfall in Scotland have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, whilst shop vacancies have climbed to a six year high. As Holyrood’s Finance & Public Administration Committee noted this month, many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.
As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share. However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high prior to the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops.
Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could better support the economic recovery in the short and longer term. However, we collectively believe one measure that requires to be taken in your Budget is a further discount to business rates in 2022-23 – one that is applicable to all retail premises and reduces the burden for all stores - to reflect the market reality and provide a bridge to the next revaluation in 2023. This would support the survival of shops, the jobs they provide directly and in the supply chain, and the vitality of our high streets and retail destinations.
David Lonsdale, Director, Scottish Retail Consortium
Ferhan Ashiq, Scottish District President, Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN)
James Barnes, Chairman, The Horticultural Trades Association
Dr Pete Cheema OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Grocers Federation
Tracy Gilbert, Regional Secretary – Scotland, Usdaw
Philip Goodman, Chair, Shopping Centre Management Group, Revo Scotland
Meryl Halls, Managing Director, Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
David Melhuish, Director, Scottish Property Federation
Howard Saycell, Chief Executive, Retra
Anthony Short, Executive Director, Music Industries Association
Roddy Smith, Chief Executive, Essential Edinburgh
Jim Winship, Director, The British Sandwich & Food to Go Association