A collective sigh of relief could be heard when Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced that hospitality, leisure, retail and aviation businesses will pay no rates during 2021-22. Her announcement came only a day after the UK government announced a further £1.1 billion of consequential funding for Scotland.
The move builds on the three-month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.
Ms Forbes said, “When I presented our budget last month I guaranteed to extend non-domestic rates relief further if I was given the necessary resources. I can now deliver on that promise, providing the UK Budget in March delivers the funding we require.
“This welcome additional consequential funding was confirmed to us yesterday and I wanted give early notice to parliament and provide clarity to businesses.
She also announced extra investment some £50m extra for town centres through a ‘place-based investment’ programme, now worth up to £105 million and an extra £10m for the tourism industry in rural areas.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group said, “The Scottish Hospitality Group today welcome the announcement from Kate Forbes on the extension of the rates relief for 2021-22. This is a good start, however, we are still a long way from where we need to be in terms of financial support to allow us to steer our way out of this pandemic. It is, however, a good end to a day which started off with the release of an out of date and worthless report by Stirling University.”
UKHospitality Scotland also welcomed the decision to extend business rates relief and provide further financial support for hospitality and tourism businesses with Executive Director Willie Macleod saying, “This is a very positive and pragmatic move by the Scottish Government.
“Extending the rates relief was one of the major requests of the hospitality industry in Scotland. It will provide continued support for hard-pressed businesses and give them breathing room to plan ahead with some more certainty.
“Businesses are beginning to look ahead to reopening, but many still needed continued support in order to survive the weeks and months ahead. Failure to provide more support would have been devastating, particularly with the pessimistic tone sounded by the First Minister on the possibility of Easter and Summer bookings.
“Our recovery will be enhanced immeasurably if the UK Government extends the VAT cut for hospitality, giving businesses an even better chance of survival. It will give many employers vital support to keep jobs open and put them in a much stronger position to help lead the economic recovery of Scotland this year.”
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the STA said, “I know that our industry is breathing a huge sigh of relief as a result of the Finance Secretary’s announcement that she will extend 100% business rates relief to the sector for another year.” He continued, “There is however no doubt that up weighted targeted support must be allocated to the tourism sector if businesses are not going to be able to trade viably for months to come and the STA will continue to press both the Westminster and Scottish Governments for this.
“Scotland’s tourism industry continues to be 100% aligned to the health agenda; our businesses are committed to opening in a safe and secure way, giving customers confidence as a result of the level of financial investment which has been adopted across the sector.”
While Emma McClarkin, CEO of Scottish beer & Pubs Association said, “We welcome the news today that the Scottish Government has heeded our calls for further fiscal support for our sector. This news gives relief to the thousands of pub businesses in Scotland who have now been closed for several months and remain unclear when they will be able to open their doors again. Our industry is teetering on the precipice and we now urgently need a clear roadmap to reopening from the First Minister when she unveils her Framework next week – hospitality cannot be at the end of the queue.”