SNP don’t value region
It’s fair to say 2017 is set to be a year of challenges. With firms struggling in the face of colossal hikes in business rates and local funding on the way down, it makes for grim reading across the region.
The question in the minds of many is: does the SNP truly value the contribution of the north-east?
In its recent budget, the Scottish Government decided the only way to reduce the burden of business rates on small businesses was to push the charges up elsewhere.
This means many medium and large employers in the north-east and elsewhere are seeing their bills rise by tens of thousands of pounds. This is an exercise in SNP sleight-of-hand, not an overall investment in the Scottish economy.
The crushing increases for many businesses will mean that medium-sized employers, such as restaurants and hotels, will have to look at costs, including recruitment costs.
In turn, this acts as a drag on the economy with unemployment, already higher than south of the border, rising again this week.
Given 120,000 jobs lost due to the oil price slump, this is the opposite of what we need. As usual under the SNP, the north-east is getting a raw deal.
Before the 2011 election, the SNP promised every local authority would get at least 85% of the national average funding. Yet the SNP budget would leave Aberdeen City £23million short of the bare minimum funding level promised. This raises a serious point. In the next financial year, Aberdeen City funding is £1,399 per person, yet the Scottish average is £1,763. Even to reach the 85% promised target it would need an increase in funding of £100 per person from the Scottish Government.
Meanwhile, one of the businesses which is set to gain from these changes is the SNP’s own headquarters in central Edinburgh. Its rates will drop by a third.
This will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of businesses having to contemplate their future due to these changes. Let’s see if the SNP will provide more support to their Banff and Buchan branch which complained it couldn’t afford a hotel room because of price changes driven by the hike in business rates. So business rates leap up, jobs are at risk and north-east tax payers don’t even get the benefit of the services they contribute so handsomely too. Is this the better Scotland that the SNP promised? This is scandalous behaviour from a government whose programme for the economy has lurched from incompetence to catastrophe.
What’s the solution? Well, back in 2010, Scottish Liberal Democrats were warning about the threat posed by crippling increases in non-domestic rates bills in Scotland and the impact that these could have, particularly on hospitality and tourism.
Rates then rose by up to 120%. That is why we proposed a motion to cap business rate increases.
Unfortunately, the Tories and the SNP joined forces and voted the motion down.
A transitional scheme would give time for businesses to appeal their valuations.
Supported by almost twothirds of firms, it would allow small businesses to immediately benefit while protecting local businesses from massive jumps in their rates.
Yet, when this was put to the finance secretary, it was point-blank rejected.
This speaks of a government that has completely lost touch with the needs of local businesses and communities.
Sadly, it seems the SNP are blind to the threat their severe rates rises will have on medium-sized enterprises and their workers.
Their actions show they do not truly value the north-east. While ministers go off and pursue another attempt to break up the UK, our local services and local businesses continue to struggle.
As usual under the SNP, the north-east is getting a raw deal