Scottish Bakers, FDF Scotland and other industry bodies call on Government to freeze business rates to keep Scotland competitive

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nineteen leading trade organisations have called on the Scottish Government to follow the UK's suit and freeze the business rate in its upcoming Budget. Pic: GettyImages/treety
Nineteen leading trade organisations have called on the Scottish Government to follow the UK's suit and freeze the business rate in its upcoming Budget. Pic: GettyImages/treety

Related tags: Inflation, Scottish Bakers, FDF Scotland, business rates, Scotland

Scottish Bakers, Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Scottish Retail Consortium and UKHospitality Scotland are among the 19 industry bodies to have jointly written to Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and Interim Finance Secretary John Swinney MSP, asking him to freeze the business rate.

According to the alliance, “the cost of doing business in Scotland is spiralling and the near-term economic outlook is weak.”

With the business rate already at a 23-year high, Scottish businesses are taking a pounding and this is being passed on to consumers.

Help ease the burden

Baker under pressure FG Trade
Pic: GettyImages

Ahead of the Scottish Government’s Budget, organisations representing a broad section of Scottish industry and commerce have sent a letter to Swinney, asking him to help “firms with the costs crisis [and]help ease the burden at this difficult time.”

The Budget will be unveiled on 15 December and is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs and thresholds for the 2023-24 financial year.

In the UK Government’s Autumn Statement, ​Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt confirmed the business rate in England would not increase next April. The coalition hopes that “at the very least, Scottish Ministers follow suit and similarly freeze the headline business rate poundage in the coming financial year.”

It adds, “after two turbulent years of the pandemic, the fact is trading conditions remain challenging.”

Keep prices down for customers

Inflationary environment piggy banks on coins PM Images
Pic: GettyImages

The business bodies concede that “headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform, including more frequent revaluations; the retention of the uniform business rate; and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England, which should benefit 12,000 commercial premises here in Scotland.”

The letter also acknowledges “the Scottish Government – like business – is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time.”

However, it is imploring the Government to refrain from increasing the poundage rate in the coming financial year, which would “ensure that no more Scottish commercial premises [than those that currently do] pay a higher business rate than applied down south.”

This, ultimately, will help them “keep down prices for customers … would support business investment and retain Scotland’s competitiveness for most ratepayers.”

It adds the alliance has “a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could be improved” ​beyond the rate freeze.

The joint letter was signed by Scottish Bakers CEO Alasdair Smith and FDF Scotland’s CEO David Thomson, among others.

Dear Deputy First Minister

We are writing jointly ahead of the Scottish Budget to ask that you do not increase the poundage rate in the coming financial year.

We fully recognise that the Scottish Government, like business, is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time. We note too that headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform including more frequent revaluations, the retention of the uniform business rate, and the pledge to restore parity on the higher property rate with England which should benefit 12,000 commercial premises here in Scotland.

Yet, after two turbulent years of the pandemic the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business is spiralling, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. Given the decision taken in the UK Autumn Statement we ask that at the very least Scottish Ministers follow suit and similarly freeze the headline business rate poundage in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crisis, help them keep down prices for customers, and ensure that no more Scottish commercial premises than currently do end up paying a higher business rate than applies down south. It would support business investment and retain Scotland’s competitiveness for most ratepayers.

Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Scotland’s rates system could be improved. However, we collectively believe this practical measure to at least freeze the business rate requires to be taken in your upcoming Scottish Budget, which would be a positive step applicable to all commercial premises and help ease the burden at this difficult time.

Yours sincerely,

David Lonsdale, director, Scottish Retail Consortium

Sandy Begbie CBE, CEO, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Tracy Black, director, CBI Scotland

Dr Liz Cameron CBE, CEO, Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Phil Clapp, CEO, UK Cinema Association

Marc Crothall MBE, CEO, Scottish Tourism Alliance

Huw Edwards, CEO, ukactive

Mark Kent, CEO, Scotch Whisky Association

Sarah-Jane Laing, CEO, Scottish Land & Estates

Warrick Malcolm, director, ADS Scotland

Catherine McWilliam, Nations director, IoD Scotland

David Melhuish, director, Scottish Property Federation

Gordon Nelson, Scotland director, Federation of Master Builders

Garry Richmond, director, Print Scotland

Paul Sheerin, CEO, Scottish Engineering

Alasdair Smith, CEO, Scottish Bakers

Colin Smith, CEO, Scottish Wholesale Association

David Thomson, CEO, Food & Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland

Leon Thompson, executive director, UKHospitality Scotland

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