Rates set to vary

SHOPS of similar size and rateable value in different parts of Scotland could find themselves paying significantly different commercial rates after the country’s local councils were given the power to lower rates in their areas.
Following announcements that local councils in England would have more power over business rates Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney revealed changes north of the border.
Under an order which uses the existing Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, Scottish councils are, from 31 October, able to reduce rate bills based on criteria they choose, such as the type of property, its location, occupation or activity,
Swinney said: “With these new flexibilities councils could, for example, use their local knowledge to attract new investment into town centres and help create vibrant communities where people want to live, socialise and do business.”
For retail representative organisation the Scottish Retail Consortium the change had welcome aspects but didn’t go far enough.
David Martin, head of policy and external affairs said: “The announcement from the deputy first minister whilst not new, is welcome acknowledgment of the need to keep costs down on retailers and other businesses.
“It is, however, a missed opportunity to arrest the cost pressures and structural deficiencies in the system which undermine existing businesses and holds back new investment. We need a more imaginative approach to reform in Scotland, one which leads to business rates flexing with economic conditions and a more sustainable overall reduction in the tax burden for ratepayers.”
Given that full reviews of business rates systems have now been announced in Northern Ireland and in England it is more important than ever that Scottish Ministers look again at the issue, he said.