Retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses will pay no rates during 2021-22 under proposals outlined by Scotland’s government.
It is one of a series of measures proposed by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes following confirmation of a further £1.1 billion of consequential funding arising from UK Government coronavirus (COVID-19) spending.
The move builds on the three month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.
Separately, local authorities will receive an extra £275 million in the current financial year to address COVID-19 pressures, while a further £40 million is being made available to support the safe reopening of schools.
Ms Forbes said: “When I presented our budget last month I guaranteed to extend non-domestic rates relief further if I was given the necessary resources. I can now deliver on that promise, providing the UK Budget in March delivers the funding we require.
“The other measures I am proposing today, including further support for hospitals, schools and local government and measures to tackle climate change, build on our priorities to ensure a robust recovery for our economy and public services.
“This welcome additional consequential funding was confirmed to us yesterday and I wanted give early notice to parliament and provide clarity to businesses.
“We are still in the throes of a national emergency and it is important Parliament works together to respond. I will continue to work with all parties to help deliver a budget for the nation fit for these times.”
Today’s confirmation offers businesses a “much-needed lifeline”, says trade body the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).
The SLTA, which has been calling for an extension to the existing rates holiday, welcomed the decision and said the announcement by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes was a “weight off our collective shoulders”. SLTA spokesman Paul Waterson said: “Extending 100% rates relief for the next financial year gives pubs, hospitality and tourism a fighting chance when we do re-emerge from lockdown.
“However, what we need now is for UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, in his Budget on March 3, to keep VAT at 5% and also extend current furlough arrangements. While rates are generally the biggest fixed rate costs for the hospitality industry, we look forward to further concessions that will help businesses.”
Mr Waterson also said that the while the SLTA welcomed today’s announcement, it was imperative that businesses had a clear route map for the easing of lockdown restrictions. “We look forward to hearing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for getting out of lockdown and, crucially, some dates – even if they are provisional.
“The news that there is to be a £50 million package of support for Scotland’s town centres and more capital funding specifically for tourism infrastructure projects in local communities is also very good news.”
McClarkin, CEO of Scottish beer & Pubs Association said:
“We welcome the news today that the Scottish Government has heeded our calls for further fiscal support for our sector. This news gives relief to the thousands of pub businesses in Scotland who have now been closed for several months and remain unclear when they will be able to open their doors again. Our industry is teetering on the precipice and we now urgently need a clear roadmap to reopening from the First Minister when she unveils her Framework next week – hospitality cannot be at the end of the queue.”