Government fails to commit to lowering business taxes

The SNP Government have failed to commit to bringing tax rates for businesses in line with those in England.

The Programme for Government for the year ahead was announced by the First Minister yesterday. As part of that the government committed to implementing the majority of the 30 recommendations made in the Barclay Review into the non-domestic rates system, which was published in August 2017.

But one of the main recommendations, which was to scrap the SNPs headline policy of doubling the large business supplement on businesses with a rateable value over £51,000, has not been committed to. It means that those businesses pay an additional 2.6% rate in Scotland, compared to a 1.3% rate in England. Barclay found that doubling the rate paid in England did not meet the government’s own ambition of making Scotland the best place to do business in the UK.

Today, during questions to the government, Lothian MSP Gordon Lindhurst asked whether that recommendation would now be met alongside the others.

Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance, failed to make that commitment in her response to Lindhurst.

The Lothian MSP asked:

“Is it still the intention to ignore this key recommendation, and if so, on what basis is this being picked out?”

Speaking after Ms Forbes’ response, Lindhurst said:

“I am disappointed the Scottish Government continues to drag it’s feet on this issue.

“They have previously stated that they would look at it to see whether it is affordable. What they don’t understand is that making Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK is damaging our attractiveness to invest and damaging our economy in the process.

“Edinburgh and Lothian is an attractive place to do business, but the higher business rates are damaging that reputation. I hope that the SNP Government will listen to the Barclay Review and level that playing field.”