First busi­ness rates re­forms will come into ef­fect from to­mor­row

The Herald - - POLITICS - TOM GOR­DON

THE first wave of re­forms to Scot­land’s busi­ness rates sys­tem comes into ef­fect to­mor­row, with the em­pha­sis on stim­u­lat­ing the econ­omy and cut­ting red tape.

The re­sult of last year’s Bar­clay Re­view, the changes in­clude 100 per cent re­lief for day nurs­eries to save the sec­tor £6mil­lion a year and in­crease pro­vi­sion.

From to­mor­row, un­oc­cu­pied new prop­er­ties will also es­cape rates al­to­gether, and ten­ants who take them on will en­joy a rates hol­i­day for the first year.

To help boost in­vest­ment in prop­er­ties, im­prove­ments that would pre­vi­ously have meant higher rates bills, will not in­cur ad­di­tional charge for 12 months.

The re­forms, the first of their kind in the UK, are among 30 rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Bar­clay Re­view to mod­ernise the £2.8 bil­lion a year non-do­mes­tic rates sys­tem.

Vis­it­ing the Or­chard Nurs­ery in Ed­in­burgh, Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay said the changes would sup­port busi­ness, while also rais­ing ad­e­quate funds for coun­cil ser­vices.

He said: “When I ap­pointed [for­mer RBS chair­man] Ken Bar­clay to re­view the rates sys­tem, I tasked him with up­dat­ing it to bet­ter sup­port busi­ness growth, en­cour­age long-term in­vest­ment and en­able busi­nesses to bet­ter nav­i­gate fast-chang­ing mar­ket­places.

“The changes we put in place – in many ways go­ing fur­ther than the Bar­clay rec­om­men­da­tions – also al­lowed us to of­fer wider ben­e­fits, such as sup­port­ing the ex­pan­sion in funded early learn­ing and child­care en­ti­tle­ment with the re­lief for nurs­eries.”

The 100 per cent re­lief for nurs­eries is de­signed to mesh with the SNP pol­icy to raise free child­care pro­vi­sion for three- and four-yearolds from 600 to 1140 hours per year by Au­gust 2020.

Andy Wil­lox, Scot­tish pol­icy con­vener of the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses, said the new mea­sures were a step closer to de­vel­op­ing “a fairer, smarter rates sys­tem”. He said: “Lo­cal nurs­eries are a prime ex­am­ple of smaller busi­nesses fun­da­men­tal to the suc­cess of their lo­cal com­mu­nity and econ­omy.”

How­ever, many large busi­nesses re­main an­gry that another Bar­clay Re­view rec­om­men­da­tion – to halve the 2.6p large busi­ness sup­ple­ment paid by 22,000 prop­er­ties – was not adopted.

The Scot­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium said firms across Scot­land will have paid £189 mil­lion more in tax by 2019/20 than if they were in Eng­land.

The changes al­lowed us to of­fer wider ben­e­fits

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