Businesses welcome rates relief vow but demand more support

Business groups have welcomed the extension of rates relief set out in the latest Scottish Budget, but urged Holyrood ministers to provide more support.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has extended the current 100% non-domestic rates relief for at least the first three months of the year, a move worth around £185 million.

She also said the current strategic framework business fund will continue beyond the current financial year, provided more money is forthcoming from the UK Government.

A number of groups representing business interests reacted to the Budget announced on Thursday afternoon.

Coronavirus – Wed Jan 13, 2021
Coronavirus – Wed Jan 13, 2021

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The position of Scottish businesses has never been so precarious.

“The Scottish Government’s announcements today are welcome but do not go nearly as far enough to avoid risk of widespread business collapse and job losses.

“Yes there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccination programme, but restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus have been devastating.

“Business will be disappointed that further details on an economic routemap on how we will exit this crisis aligned with the rollout of the vaccine were not provided today.”

Andrew McRae, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “While the Cabinet Secretary offered stability for business on several important fronts, we heard too little about closing some of the big holes in grant support.

“It was important to see the three-month extension of the 100% Covid rates reliefs and the continuation of small business rates relief.

“But this only goes so far. We need to avoid any scenario where businesses face property tax demands on premises the Government has barred them from using.”

"The Finance Secretary has clearly listened to @the_brc 's concerns and responded positively to extend full business rates relief for retailers until the middle of this year." Our response to #scotbudget here:

— E MacDonald-Russell (@EwanMacDonald) January 28, 2021

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Avoiding April’s abrupt ‘reverse cliff-edge’ – which was set to see a 100% reinstatement of business rates – was the industry’s top Budget priority.

“This is very encouraging, but the Finance Secretary must understand further support will be required in the future.

“Reopening alone will not be a panacea for the industry as shops will be unable to trade at capacity due to physical distancing and caps on the number of customers in stores.”