Thou­sands of jobs lost on Scots high streets sparks fury over taxes

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By SCOTT MACNAB

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s “toxic” tax hikes have come un­der fire af­ter it emerged thou­sands of jobs have been lost from Scot­land’s high streets.

Shops have axed 6,400 staff over the past year, with 185 stores clos­ing their doors, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s lat­est busi­ness sta­tis­tics have shown.

The im­pact of chang­ing trad­ing con­di­tions, par­tic­u­larly the rise of on­line shop­ping, has seen many stores close their doors in re­cent years, with house­holds names like BHS among the vic­tims of the squeeze.

More shops closed in Scot­land than in any other part of Bri­tain in 2016, with one shut­ting each day, a re­port in April found.

Over the past eight years, em­ploy­ment in the re­tail in­dus­try has shrunk by 16,400, down 6.3 per cent over the pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Scot­tish An­nual Busi­ness Sta­tis­tics.

David Lons­dale, director of the Scot­tish Re­tail Con­sor­tium, said the poli­cies of Scot­tish min­is­ters have also had a role in the demise.

“These lat­est fig­ures graph­i­cally high­light the im­pact of the toxic cock­tail of bur­geon­ing tax and reg­u­la­tory costs and trans­for­ma­tional change in the re­tail in­dus­try,” he said.

“Sadly our warn­ings about the im­pact of ris­ing gov­ern­ment-im­posed costs on an in­dus­try in pro­found tran­si­tion are be­ing borne out, with fewer jobs and fewer re­tail stores. In par­tic­u­lar the loss of over 6,000 jobs over the past year must act as a wake-up call to pol­icy mak­ers.”

Firms have com­plained of tax hikes in re­cent years in­clud­ing the Ap­pren­tice­ship Levy which is es­ti­mated to cost shops £15 mil­lion a year. How­ever, it only started in April and won’t be cov­ered by the lat­est fig­ures.

The Large Busi­ness Rates Sup­ple­ment was also in­creased last year mean­ing ex­tra costs of £12m a year for firms. The na­tional liv­ing wage rose in April, and em­ploy­ers’ statu­tory pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions are set to rise next spring and again in 2019.

But a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokeswoman said: “These fig­ures are from 2015.

“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is do­ing ev­ery­thing within our pow­ers to sup­port our econ­omy and have com­mit­ted to around £660 mil­lion of busi­ness rates re­lief this year which in­cludes lift­ing 100,000 busi­ness premises out of rates al­to­gether.

“We will re­spond swiftly to the Bar­clay re­view of Busi­ness Rates.”

Min­is­ters are also work­ing with the SRC to de­velop a re­tail strat­egy.

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