SNP crippling Scottish businesses by not bringing in rates relief, say Tories

The Scottish Government’s decision not to emulate the Chancellor’s business rates relief north of the border is “crippling” businesses, the Tories have said.

Jeremy Hunt announced an extension of 75% relief for firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector in his autumn statement last year, meaning £230 million would be sent to Scotland due to the area being devolved.

But the Scottish Government decided not to do the same in a budget where ministers were wrestling with a £1.5 billion black hole.

On a campaign visit to the Scottish Borders on Monday, Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “The SNP Government are crippling Scottish businesses by failing to pass on the rates relief available to firms south of the border.

“The UK Government has provided the funding for them to do so, yet Kate Forbes, John Swinney and Shona Robison have chosen not to help Scottish businesses that are desperately trying to get back on their feet post-pandemic.

“The SNP’s anti-business agenda is costing jobs and livelihoods, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, because firms are operating at a competitive disadvantage.

“It’s all the more galling for Scottish businesses located close to the border, because they can see the huge godsend the Chancellor’s 75% rates relief is to their peers and rivals in England.”

An analysis by the Fraser of Allander institute published in December, ahead of the budget, said modelling they had conducted showed the cost of passing on the relief could be as high as £360 million.

Responding to Ms Gallacher’s attacks, SNP candidate for Stirling and Strathallan, Alyn Smith said: “Thanks to the small business bonus, introduced by the SNP Scottish Government, 100,000 businesses pay no rates – a prime example of how the SNP are standing up for businesses.

“But businesses in Scotland do indeed face a huge problem – the damaging Brexit people here voted overwhelmingly to reject.

“The Tories and the Labour Party can’t back business and back Brexit at the same time.

“The Tories’ can try as hard as they want to distract from the economic devastation their Brexit fantasy has imposed, but we won’t let them shirk responsibility, nor will we let their Brexit supporting Westminster colleagues in Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party off the hook.”

Meanwhile, outgoing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who controversially announced he would be running in the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East seat, was campaigning in Fraserburgh.