Business rates relief extended for another year
Business rates relief has been extended for another year to cover all of 2021-22, Kate Forbes has said.
Addressing parliament on Tuesday, the finance secretary confirmed the extension of the relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure, aviation and newspaper publishing sector.
In addition, she also confirmed the plan to remove charitable rates relief from independent schools will be delayed until next year.
Forbes said the announcements were made possible due to confirmation from the UK Government that Scotland would receive an extra £1.1bn in funding.
She said: “When I presented the budget last month, I made it clear that, if resources allowed, I would extend 100 per cent non-domestic rates relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors to cover all of 2021-22.
“I am now in a position to provide businesses with that certainty. That meets the number one ask of the business community and demonstrates our commitment to supporting the economy.
“So that resources can be targeted at those who need them most, we are working with councils to ensure that the application process will be live before bills are issued.”
The announcement has been welcomed by business groups.
Andrew McRae, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland policy chair, said: “Extending rate relief for the next financial year will allow many more smaller firms to make it through to the end of this crisis and help them get back on their feet when the economy re-opens.
“Should many bigger businesses choose not to take up this tax break, we’d like to see the money saved spent on measures to give local and independent businesses a shot-in-the-arm.”
The move was also welcome by the Scottish Conservatives, who had previously called for an extension to rates relief.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Businesses have again been treated as an afterthought by the SNP and left waiting on a decision that should have been made weeks ago, considering this was already the biggest ever Scottish budget.
“Businesses need this certainty for the whole of this year as they continue to live under restrictions and recover from the COVID pandemic.”
The finance secretary also confirmed uplifts in funding for affordable housing, further and higher education, hardship grants, energy efficiency measures and town centres.
But the Scottish Government will need the support of one other party to ensure the budget is passed in March.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said: “The budget as it stands still falls far short of what the country needs. Scottish Labour will continue to call for investment in the economy, greater funding for the NHS and mental health services, and for a £15 an hour rate for all social care workers.”
And Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The Scottish Greens have engaged constructively with government since it outlined its budget last month. We have made it clear that a much greater emphasis on tackling poverty is required.”