The Local Government And Communities Committee which is deliberating on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2
Last week, Tory and Labour MSPs on the Local Government and Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament voted to support a Green amendment to return non-domestic rates to local authority control, rather than have one for all of Scotland, as at present.
Only SNP MSPs opposed the move.
Amendment 9 to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, currently at Stage 2 in proceeding through Parliament, repeals Section 153 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.
Section 153 is used to make secondary legislation relating to reliefs, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS). Across Scotland 120,420 properties across Scotland benefit from SBBS relief.
The Federation of Small Businesses, CBI Scotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium have all raised concerns over the impact of the proposed changes, warning it will add costs, reduce employment, deter investment and put the viability of some businesses on the line.
Kate Forbes MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, said:
“Repealing section 153 removes the SNP Government’s ability to provide national reliefs and on commencement would immediately abolish important reliefs such as the Small Business Bonus Scheme, Business Growth Accelerator and Nursery relief.
“The reliefs abolished as a consequence of this amendment have a combined value of £307 million as at 31 May 2019, equivalent to just over 40% of all rates reliefs.
“SBBS is currently worth £266.5 million annually. A property with a rateable value of £15,000 pays no rates. Following this vote by Green, Tory and Labour MSPs, such a property would now pay 49 pence for every pound of rateable value - £7,350 a year!"
Kenneth Gibson MSP, one of seven MSPs on the Committee, voted against Amendment 9 and said.
“This amendment will prove to be a disaster for local businesses if it is not reversed, making it even more difficult for them to survive on a high street already facing severe online competition. The Green amendment does not even create an equivalent power for local authorities allowing them to set reliefs.
“One can but wonder what this unholy alliance of Green, Tory and Labour MSPs was thinking.
“Properties in North Ayrshire currently receive £6 million of relief from SBBS alone.
“Here in North Ayrshire 3,040 properties will lose out unless at least one opposition party sees sense, backs the SNP Government and reverses its position at Stage 3 of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, which will become law next year.”
The reliefs impacted by this amendment are: