Scottish business groups urge MSPs to retain uniform business rate

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Major business groups and trade associations in Scotland have urged MSPs to vote to retain the uniform business rate.

In a joint letter, they raised “alarm and shared concern” on the proposal to hand over the control of Sottish business rates system to local councils.

A stage 2 amendment passed in the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill at the Sottish parliament’s Local Government committee in December 2019 sets out to devolve the powers to set business rates to councils, instead of Scottish Ministers.

The call by 26 organisations representing a wide cross section of Scottish industry comes ahead of the final Stage 3 vote on the Bill, expected over the next few weeks.

The amendment moved by Andy Wightman of the Green Party and supported by Conservative and Labour MSPs would give councils the power to set the poundage rate and impose additional levies and supplements on retailers.

The scrapping of rates poundage at the national level is also feared to cause the end of business rates relief system.

“We fear this could lead to higher business rates bills, at a time when the poundage rate is already at a 20-year high and with a further increase pencilled in for this Spring, and when businesses want to invest and grow the Scottish economy,” the letter reads.

“We therefore urge you and fellow MSPs to overturn these amendments, which simply introduce fresh complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system, and which are at odds with the rates reform agenda of ensuring competitiveness and minimising complexity.