Current business rates regime ‘not fit for purpose’

REMOVING the complexities out of taxation and simplifying the process for businesses must be addressed if the economy is to thrive – that was one of the key messages to come out of The Herald’s post-Budget Briefing yesterday with Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, described the current business rates regime as “not fit for purpose”.

While yesterday’s announcement of an extension of the business rates holiday will not directly affect Scotland, the Barnett consequential revenues from the Chancellor’s decision should ensure the more generous 100 per cent year-long relief for Scottish retail and hospitality envisaged by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes can now be confirmed.

However, Ms Cameron questioned if the “total package” unveiled in Rishi Sunak’s Budget was enough to “stimulate business in the medium term”. She said: “The impact of the pandemic on high streets in towns and city centres has been substantial so we need to see different models of support to breath life back into them.

“When they open back up again it will not be business as usual and we were already seeing that pre-pandemic so we need to rethink the business rates model and look at real incentives to redesign and reimagine what they are going to look like. The business rates regime is too complicated and we have been saying that for a long time and the plea has been ‘can we simplify it’.

“We need to do more to make us more competitive for those trying to invest in this country – I believe the expertise is there for this to happen.” Azets partner Donald Boyd agreed that towns and city centres needed incentives and said he was disappointed this wasn’t recognised in the Budget.

“As a proud Paisley ‘buddy’ I know that there are some great ideas out there that can revitalise our high streets,” he added.

A poll conducted during yesterday’s post-Budget Briefing revealed that 86.7 per cent of delegates attending the event welcomed the extension of the furlough scheme until September.

Interestingly, just one-third – 33.3% – believed that the Chancellor’s Budget matched Scotland’s ambition for economy recovery and supporting households.