The Scottish Parliament will this week debate the prospect of catastrophic business rates bills for arms-length council leisure services such as Edinburgh Leisure.
Gordon Lindhurst, Conservative MSP for Lothian, will lead the debate which has arisen following the Barclay Review into non-domestic rates. That review describes the current arrangements, where Edinburgh Leisure and Xcite are given charitable status, as ‘tax avoidance’ and recommends that they lose the relief.
If the Scottish Government takes on the recommendation, it could prove devastating for the leisure sector in Scotland which, on top of Council cuts to budgets, could add bills for millions of pounds in business rates.
The review also recommends that sports club relief is removed for some community sports clubs with ‘significant assets’. Whilst the intention is to focus on prestigious golf clubs, groups that provide valuable community projects are worried that they too could fall within that description if they have large pavilions and changing facilities, for example.
Lindhurst, who has met a number of leisure and sports providers in Lothian in the lead up to the debate, said:
“I wanted a chance to debate this issue in the Scottish Parliament because so far lawmakers have had little if any chance to properly discuss the potential impact of taking on these recommendations.
“The Barclay Review appears to totally miss the point that many of the services being provided by organisations such as Edinburgh Leisure and Xcite are for the public good.
“If the government decides to go ahead with this, they need to be aware of the consequences for sport and leisure facilities. I will be making the point that any saving that is made for the government through this is likely to impact them elsewhere in their budget, most likely the health sector. If people can’t access facilities affordably, it will impact their health.
“I hope the government will listen to this debate and refrain from taking drastic action that will be catastrophic for Scotland’s sports and leisure industry.”