SNP to give local councils power to cut business rates, says John Swinney


Local authorities in Scotland are to be handed the power to cut business rates in their area in two weeks' time.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will today tell the SNP conference in Aberdeen that councils will have the "substantial new power" from October 31.

Local government will also be able to keep all the cash it collects in business rates, Mr Swinney says.

The announcement comes after a similar measure from Chancellor George Osborne, who told the Conservative conference earlier this month that local authorities in England would be free to cut the rates as part of a "devolution revolution".

But in England the changes are only due to be in place by 2020.

Scottish Government ministers will use the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which was passed by Holyrood in June, to allow councils north of the border to reduce business rates.

Authorities will also be able to tailor any rate cuts they bring in to different areas or types of business.

Speaking ahead of his main conference address Mr Swinney said: "The Scottish Government is committed to giving communities real control over their own futures. This substantial new power will give councils more control over business rates, and an opportunity to tailor them to their local area."

He said the SNP government had already "set a strong platform nationally by delivering the most competitive business taxation in the UK" with the Small Business Bonus Scheme meaning companies either pay no rates or a reduced amount for  96,000 properties.

Mr Swinney said: "Scottish councils will be able to use these powers from the end of this month and, in contrast to England, will be able to retain all the business rates they collect.

"With these new flexibilities councils could, for example, use their local knowledge to attract new investment into town centres and help create vibrant communities where people want to live, socialise and do business."

Councils welcomed the move, with Kevin Keenan, the finance spokesman for the Scottish local government body Cosla,  describing it as a "positive start to the journey on increasing local flexibility of funding and taxation powers for councils".