The Scottish Government has appointed a supremo to lead a review into business rates north of the border after George Osborne revealed a major reform of the system in England and Wales in this week’s Budget.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the former chair of RBS Scotland, Ken Barclay, would lead the Scottish Government’s review of business rates.
Mr Barclay will consider how business rates might better support business growth, respond to wider economic conditions and changing marketplaces and support long-term growth and investment.
Ms Sturgeon revealed the new role at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) conference in Glasgow yesterday.
Andy Willox, the FSB’s Scottish policy convenor said: “The First Minister has obviously read the FSB’s 2016 Scottish Parliament manifesto.
“Small firms from up and down Scotland will be pleased to hear of the Scottish Government’s intentions to review the system while retaining their ground-breaking Small Business Bonus scheme.
“But with just over a year until the next revaluation, action may need to be taken now to make the system more user-friendly.”
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium also welcomed the move.
He said: “It is encouraging that Ministers have listened to the retail industry and the growing chorus from across commercial life in Scotland who have spoken up in favour of fundamental reform of business rates, and the appointment of Ken Barclay to lead the promised review of business rates is both welcome and positive.
“Business rates are set to generate £2.8billion in tax revenues over the next year, up from £2.1billion just six years ago.
“A fundamentally reformed rates system and substantially lower tax burden would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create more jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”
Last week Mr Osborne revealed plans to raise the threshold for small business rate relief, which would lift an estimated 600,000 small businesses out of the business rates levy in the 2016 Budget.
He has also confirmed that revaluations will be more frequent – every three years. The move led to calls to ensure that Scottish firms were not disadvantaged by the changes.