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    Scottish budget falls short of saving hospitality north of border

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    Announcing her new budget at Holyrood today, Scotland’s SNP Finance Secretary Shona Robison introduced a new 45% tax rate, but said that the government would “fully fund” a council tax freeze, while exempting business premises valued below £51,000 from rates rises.

    The new measures dismayed representatives of Scottish hospitality and tourism, who claimed that the budget would leave many pubs and restaurants at the mercy of the ongoing economic storm.

    The Scottish Tourism Alliance, UKHospitality Scotland, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and the Scottish Beer and Pub Association highlighted the material threat of long-term damage to the competitiveness of Scotland’s hospitality and tourism sector as a result of ongoing inaction.

    “With estimated consequentials of around £230 million coming to Scotland as a result of the 75 per cent rates relief afforded to businesses in England, the Scottish Government has squandered a golden opportunity to support one of the country’s most important sectors for the second year in a row,” they said in a joint statement.

    “The 100 per cent rates relief which has been announced for hospitality businesses in our island communities is welcomed, given the economic disruption these businesses have experienced from years of underinvestment in our ferry infrastructure. However, this measure falls very short of what has been expected.  It is an extreme disappointment for tourism and hospitality businesses across Scotland.

    “The lack of business support measures will see many thousands of tourism and hospitality businesses facing acute financial challenges in the next year, tipping many into crisis.

    “It also entrenches the fact that it is now immeasurably harder to run a hospitality, leisure or tourism business in Scotland, than anywhere else in Britain. This is particularly highlighted by the decision not to support the sector with rates relief, at a time when pubs in Scotland are already closing at twice the rate of those in England.

    “Around 10,000 of our businesses will not benefit from the Small Business Bonus Scheme, leaving them unsupported, and this growing gulf with the rest of Britain will cost jobs, economic growth, investment and, ultimately, tax revenues which are needed to fund public services.

    “The announcement of a new income tax band will also hit our sector’s ability to recruit senior and highly experienced candidates from elsewhere in the UK and potentially retain our emerging leadership talent. Businesses already report that it is challenging to fill vacancies, with higher tax in Scotland being a barrier.

    “One positive is the decision to freeze the poundage, which keeps another multi-million price rise at bay for now, but this will simply maintain the status quo of already extortionate business rates.

    “The Scottish Government must now work closely with businesses, as promised in the Budget announcement, to bring forward a clear strategy for economic recovery and growth, including delivering on its commitment to reform business rates through careful examination of the methodology as a starting point.”

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