The SNP Government has reaffirmed its support for maintaining the Uniform Business Rate in response to a letter from 27 organisations that represent the Scottish business community – in stark contrast to the Greens, Tories and Labour who voted to abolish it.
In response, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy Kate Forbes MSP echoed concerns that Amendment 9 to the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, scraps the Uniform Business Rate to devolve control of rates to local authorities, will create risk and uncertainty for both ratepayers and local authorities.
Ms Forbes confirmed the SNP Government’s unequivocal support for the Uniform Business Rate, stating:
“The SNP Government shares your collective view that the amendment supported by opposition MSPs at Stage 2 introduces complexity, risks and potential unpredictability into the rates system.
“Non-domestic rates play an vital role in the current wider local government finance arrangements by providing certainty and protection to local government funding whilst also ensuring certainty for ratepayers across Scotland.
“I can reassure you all that we will not support any amendments that continue to threaten the Uniform Business Rate, jeopardise the SNP Government’s ability to set reliefs in subordinate legislation or undermine Local Government funding mechanisms.”
Following the vote at the Local Government and Communities Committee, at which only SNP MSPs voted against the detrimental amendment, Ms Forbes has written to committee members and continues to liaise with MSPs of all opposition parties to try and persuade them of the critical need to listen to those concerns and support the SNP in its efforts to retain Uniform Business Rates, protecting businesses across Scotland.
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“The importance of keeping the Uniform Business Rate cannot be overstated and I fully support the SNP Government’s efforts to persuade the other parties to see the error of their ways.
“The gross rates bill for North Ayrshire in 2019/20 is £56 million. The total value of reliefs anticipated in 2019/20 is £13.6 million, of which only £170,000 is funded by the Council, the rest coming from the SNP Government.”
“If the other parties stick by their decision to take away the SNP Government’s reliefs, so many owners and employees of shops, nurseries, offices and others depend on for their livelihoods, North Ayrshire Council will be unable to replace them.
“I know the main aim of opposition parties these days appears to be to vote against SNP policy for the sake of it, but in the interest of their own constituents I urge MSPs to vote for repeal of this harmful amendment at Stage 3 of the Bill. It is not too late to change their minds and do the right thing.”