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Business leader claims coronavirus rates relief still leaving firms to foot ‘impossible’ bills

Alan Massie, director of Carlton Rock
Alan Massie, director of Carlton Rock

A leading entrepreneur has warned that the north-east faces a “tsunami of unemployment” unless business rates are immediately frozen.

Companies have been offered government grants to help cover their running costs and wages while they are shut down during the pandemic.

The Scottish Government has offered non-domestic rates relief of up to 100% for some industrial sites, while other sectors can claim a 50% discount.

But Carlton Rock boss Alan Massie has said the measures do not go far enough, adding that firms which have been instructed to temporarily close will find it “impossible” to balance the books.

He said: “People’s health is paramount, but it’s also important to have an economy with jobs and business as that’s what will pay this all back through taxes.

“It’s so important that people’s wages are secured by the government so we can get through this, but if we don’t do something about business rates then people will not have any jobs to get back to.”

He added: “At the moment it’s impossible for people to pay these rates.

“There is a tsunami of unemployment waiting to happen if something isn’t done.”

Scottish Conservative shadow finance minister and north-east MSP Alexander Burnett said: “The Scottish Government is trying to balance its own books at the expense of hard-working businesses who simply can’t afford the pressures which are being put on them.

“Businesses need more help than ever during this coronavirus outbreak which has left many on the brink of bankruptcy.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have responded swiftly to the Covid-19 pandemic, delivering a package of measures to support business worth £2.2 billion.

“As part of this we are providing grant support and removing the non-domestic rates liabilities of properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors.

“We have also provided a generous package of non-domestic rates reliefs including empty property relief.

“This provides a 100% rates discount for the first six months for empty industrial properties and 50% discount for all other empty non-domestic properties for the first three months, with both receiving a 10% discount for every month after that.”

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