A proposed amendment to scrap the Universal Business Rate across Scotland had passed in November 2019 at Stage 2 of the vote on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill but was defeated at Stage 3 on 4 February 2020.
MSPs have voted to keep the Universal Business Rate in Scotland, much to the relief of HTA member businesses.
Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee had backed the Green Party Amendment, which would have seen the £2.8 billion tax handed to the 32 local authorities enabling them to set their own poundage rate, rates relief and any local rates supplements.
Commenting on this, HTA chairman, James Barnes said: “It is reassuring that MSPs have taken heed and seen sense in voting to keep Universal Business Rates for Scottish businesses. Whilst far from perfect Universal Business Rates do provide businesses with some consistency and predictability and any changes would have brought unnecessary burden. We thank our members for playing their part in contacting MSPs to influence this decision.”
Business rates have increased substantially over the last ten years, with significant disparities - garden centres in Scotland are paying a significantly higher rate per square foot, than in England. Uniform Business Rates allows those businesses with multiple locations across different authorities in Scotland and across the whole of the UK, to plan a financial year. A pan-Scotland poundage/tax rate means businesses have some predictability for their business rates in Scotland.
The HTA was one of 27 business representative groups and sectoral trade associations that joined forces with the Scottish Retail Consortium to write a joint letter to MSPs urging them to vote to retain the Uniform Business Rate.
The Association also mobilised its members to write to their local and regional MSPs making a strong case for why they should vote in favour of Universal Business Rates.