The Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA) has put its name to a joint letter urging Scottish MPs to retain the uniform business rate, saying there is a need for a competitive rates system that better reflects economic and trading conditions.
Collaborating with 26 other leading business groups and sectoral trade associations, the groups represent a wide cross-section of Scottish industry including manufacturing, retail, property, tourism, hospitality and leisure.
This collective call comes ahead of the final stage three vote on the non-domestic rates bill, expected over the next few weeks. At stage two of the Bill, the Local Government & Communities Committee voted to end the Scotland-wide uniform businessrate, and instead hand control over the setting of the business rate poundage and rates reliefs to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, said: “We share the view of the other business groups that there is a need for a competitive rates system and one that better reflects economic and trading conditions.
“The current uniform business rate and Scotland-wide rates reliefs allow companies to plan as they are consistent and predictable,” he continued. “If it is abolished, the major concern is that this could lead to higher business rates bills – hardly conducive to helping businesses to invest and grow.”
He continued: “We don’t agree that handing over control of the rating system to Scotland’s local authorities is the way forward – it would result in a rates system that is more complex and costly, and put further pressure on hard-working business owners. We’ve just come through one of the worst years for retail sales and what business now needs is certainty and a rates and tax system that supports business.
“Our biggest concern is the impact that this will have on our members’ customer base – small and independent retailers, local cafes, restaurants, pubs etc and what that will mean for the sustainability of their business.”
Meanwhile, the SWA will be discussing the development of a skilled workforce and sustainability at an industry event to mark its 80s anniversary.
Smith has also confirmed that the SWA will stage a one-day conference at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro in Perthshire on Thursday, October 1: “We want to inspire a new generation of wholesalers to take an active role in protecting and developing the industry and if our members are to continue on their current growth trajectory they must invest in their people.