Supermarket giant Tesco has announced it will pay back an estimated £60 million in coronavirus-related rates relief to the Scottish Government.
Company chairman John Allan said it is “conscious of our responsibilities to society”, adding the saving is no longer needed due to a strong balance sheet.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has welcomed the move, assuring the public the return will be put to good use.
I commend @Tesco for choosing to refund rates relief provided at the outset of the pandemic. I will ensure the money is fully spent on those who have been hardest hit as part of Scotland’s recovery from Covid. /1
— Kate Forbes MSP (@KateForbesMSP) December 2, 2020
She said: “This is a public-spirited announcement from Tesco who, along with other essential retailers, have played an important role in Scotland’s response to the pandemic. I thank them for it.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Ms Forbes said the rates relief extended by the Scottish Government, as well as other administrations throughout the UK, allowed the company to retain staff.
“Now the situation has evolved and Tesco’s business is proving to be resilient, I am pleased that the company are willing and able to refund the public support provided, which we estimate to be in the region of £60 million,” she said.
Ms Forbes added: “We will ensure this money is fully spent on those who have been hardest hit during Scotland’s recovery from Covid.
“If other businesses find themselves in the same position, I can assure them that every penny of support returned will be reinvested in supporting Scotland’s hardest hit businesses, alongside investment in our communities and our economy.”
▪️Tesco is leading the way & returning £585m back to government – the business rates exemption provided during the pandemic.
Other supermarkets need to follow suit.
— Esther McVey (@EstherMcVey1) December 2, 2020
In total, Tesco will be returning £585 million to government coffers across the UK.
The move has been hailed by Conservative MP Esther McVey and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
Rival Co-op told the PA news agency it will consider its position at the end of the financial year but did not rule out taking the same steps as Tesco.
A statement from the group chain said: “Given the huge uncertainty we’re facing into still and the ongoing costs we are incurring, we’ll consider our approach in terms of the government support we’ve received at year end.”