Sturgeon outlines plans to reform Scottish business rates system

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has just launched her Programme for Government 2018-19, underlining the Scottish Government’s ambition for the economy, including a proposed non-domestic rates bill.

Says the report, “We will also continue to drive forward work that will make Scotland the most competitive place to invest and do business. This will include introducing a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to further implement recommendations of the Barclay Review…The Bill will deliver the ambition set out in the Barclay Review to enhance and reform the business rates system in Scotland to better support business growth and long-term investment and reflect changing marketplaces…It will also deliver measures to increase fairness and ensure a level playing field by reforming a number of reliefs and tackling known avoidance measures.”

Commenting on the proposed rates review, Brigid Simmonds CEO of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said, “Our industry welcomes the Scottish Government’s Program for Government, particularly the news of further action on non-domestic rates, expanding our food and drink sector, and growing our exports.

She continued, “Most significantly of all, the current system of rates simply doesn’t work for our sector and this has been recognised by the Scottish Government with the 12.5% annual cap on increases. The legislation announced yesterday will put into law the remaining Barclay recommendations, which includes a break between the completion of capital investment and a rise in business rates. Without doubt business rate increases are a real disincentive for capital investment.  We would like to see such legislation replicated across the whole of the UK for the benefit of all pubs.

The report also outlines plans to grow the food and drink sectors, saying, “The food and drink industry is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy, with a turnover of around £14 billion each year and accounting for around 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs. We have nearly 17,000 food and drink businesses employing over 111,000 people. We will continue to support the sector to grow sustainably and inclusively through the industry-led strategy, Ambition 2030.”

It continues, “Food and drink exports are now at record levels of £6 billion a year but Brexit threatens to dislocate trade from our biggest international market. We will do all we can to reduce that disruption and enhance and strengthen Scotland’s brand as a Good Food Nation at home and abroad. By March 2019 we will publish a new Food and Drink 5-Year Export Plan and bring forward new measures to promote and market our produce in overseas markets.

Commenting further, Brigid Simmonds said, “We also share the Government’s ambitions of growing our fantastic food and drink sectors, and welcome the specific mention of beer within their plans. We also look forward to the new national export plan and will be pushing for a strong focus on our world class brewers, which have huge potential for major export growth.

Sturgeon has also proposed a deposit return scheme within the report. It said, “While we have made steady progress on recycling, there is more to be done. We have asked people for views on how a deposit return scheme for drinks containers should work. We will use the views shared with us to help design an effective system that will work well for everyone in Scotland. This year we will go further to tackle our throwaway culture. We will look beyond drinks containers and consult on what additional measures should be considered to improve the use and reuse of other materials.”

Commenting on the proposed scheme, Brigid Simmonds said, “There are of course concerns for our sector, particularly how a deposit return scheme might interact with our members and become another burdening cost for business. It is imperative that any system is UK-wide, a Scotland-only system would be costly for consumers and unworkable for industry – any inclusion of alcoholic products will also impact on minimum-unit pricing and undermine the ongoing evaluation of this policy.”

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